At the start, this game had all the makings of a fun and exciting playoff matchup.
Boston came out very physical, and the Islanders matched it; almost every post-whistle scrum resulted in a bit of facewashing. Two fights broke out in the first ten minutes, as well as far too many multi-player grappling sessions. First Taylor Hall squared off against Scott Mayfield:
Taylor Hall vs Scott Mayfield pic.twitter.com/tJYz2Jy2is— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) June 6, 2021
Then, Jarred Tinordi and Matt Martin:
Martin & Tinordi threw hands #Isles #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/cNKBt80f5S— That's Hockey Talk (@ThatsHockeyTalk) June 6, 2021
We done yet? No? Fine. A couple more shoving matches kept Boston occupied, and they couldn’t do much to exit their own zone until the last few minutes of the first, on the backs of some great cycling by Boston to keep the puck out of harm’s way and then double-shifting the second line with four minutes to go, followed by 90 seconds from the top line to try and challenge the tilt to end the first.
It did not last. Boston looked well in control to close the first, but immediately ceded the posession game to New York. Boston may have scored first...
David Krejci gets Boston on the board with his first goal of the postseason. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/tD3dBGbSaE— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) June 6, 2021
but the Islanders had already tilted the ice. it was only a matter of time before they returned the favor.
#Isles take the lead! pic.twitter.com/aEByZu3ged— x - New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 6, 2021
From there, it was Boston shooting itself in the foot, whether disadvantage or disenfranchised play. Sure, Pastrnak hit a wide open post in the first period. He’ll be sweating that for the rest of these playoffs unless he redeems himself with a blowout like he head in Game 1. As for the rest, David Krejci lost his cool and skipped right past Mat Barzal’s cup to check some other tender area, taking a slash in the process. The original call was a major, but it was reduced to a minor... hopefully because they saw Barzal’s repeated lower rib integrity checks on Krejci. Fine, look past it, because playoff hockey.
Unless, then, you need to strictly interpret a high-sticking penalty, of which Charlie McAvoy was certainly guilty within the rules while a period was ending and offering the Isles a period-opening advantage.
For mercy’s sake, we’ll gloss past the uphill battle that was the third period and just admit that two empty-net goals are always going to sink you. At least nobody cleaned someone’s clock in the process.
What can’t be looked past, unfortunately, is the dependence on a depleted defensive corps on Boston’s back end. It was already a tenuous situation going into the game with Brandon Carlo’s absence, but after two periods, Bruce Cassidy was left to some weird devices when trying to work matchups, and though it was forced quite a bit by Barry Trotz’s home-ice line changes, there was not a solid defense pairing on the ice for any - ANY - of the third period.
Between rotating combinations of McAvoy and Grzelyck paired with Jeremy Lauzon, to Mike Reilly and Connor Clifton getting platooned with Jarred Tinordi to fill some gaps, there was a serious dearth of coherent defensive play. The fancystats analysis does refer to scoring chances and changes in possession, and it was not pretty - but even by the old ‘eye test’, it was apparent that the Islanders were completely shutting down any attempt by Boston to attack through the neutral zone, never mind putting dangerous pucks on net. Even the Bruins’ trend of officially outshooting opponents was subpar in last night’s game.
Game 5 on Monday, earlier start at 6:30PM. Get your mental refresh on, and let’s hope for a better overall effort (or a return of a healthy Carlo) on Monday!