Just the facts
When: Tonight, 7PM
Where: Nassau Coliseum, New York’s Long-ish Island
How to follow: MSG+2, TVAS, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Rival SBN site: LightHouse Hockey
Know your enemy
- 15-6-4, 1st in the East Division with 34 points
- Scoring leaders: Mat Barzal, 9-13—22pts; Anders Lee, 12-6—18
- Semyon Varlamov has a slight edge in stats (.926 Sv%, 2.10 GAA) over Ilya Sorokin (.911, 2.14), and has a four game win streak rolling in his last four starts.
It’s about time Boston put up a W against the Islanders... they’re 0-3 this season and were victims of a brutal 7-2 beatdown a little over two weeks ago. The Islanders have since planted themselves at the top of the MassMutual East Division, while the Bruins have slid to third, though the B’s have three games in hand so there is room to gain ground. An essential challenge to address for Boston is to turn their tendency of controlling play - they’ve led opponents in CorsiFor% in five of the last seven games - into producing enough goals to win the game. They juuust barely led over the Islanders in this category in their 7-2 drubbing by New York back in late February.
The New York Islanders, however, do not overwhelm with possession; rather, they own the bulk of quality scoring chances and, more importantly, reign in expected goals. Over the same span of the most recent seven games, the Islanders have led in both categories in five of them... yes, again including that major defeat.
Rumor has it the Islanders are in the market for a third-line winger, and an old, familiar name came up in the Twittersphere: Brett Connolly. Do they WANT to win?! Yeah, he’d bring experience... just not enough to pull any third line out of the doldrums. The Isles are around 10th in the league in possession stats right now and he’s not a solution to many current problems in the NHL. (By comparison, Boston is third in possession stats overall thus far.) Flipping that script, though, the Isles are top five in expected goals per game, while Boston is a very-middling 15th. Clearly, the Isles can score as a team, and it shows.
Kind of telling that Jack Studnicka is chasing Sean Kuraly for depth-center duties. There were folks out there entertaining a game-long benching for Jake DeBrusk, which would pull him back in... it’s just hard to know what Boston needs more of right now. I think Studnicka backchecks well and gives them much more offensive upside that deep in the forward corps, but if Jake isn’t going to score, Kuraly often brings a better motor. (NOT suggesting we should put Kuraly further up the lineup, mind you... just an observation.)
Not gonna lie, and maybe not right now on short notice, but it would be great to see Jeremy Swayman in the backup seat, if not making an NHL start - which would be the first of his career. We’ve seen and heard lore of his dedication and style prior to arriving in Providence and he’s on his way to earning a look. It wouldn’t hurt too bad right now, and it would let Halak continue to pretend to be a starter by letting the ‘rook’ get a rep in.