Tonight two Eastern conference playoff teams face off in a game that could be a harbinger of what is to come in the second round, if they beat their current tough first round opponents as of today. Anything can happen in the NHL’s second season, so watching this game closely could payoff for future bets. Get ready for the Bruins to visit the Island.
Boston vs. New York
The New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins will play at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in a meeting of two top teams in the Eastern Conference. These two heavy weights will battle it out, and it should be a hard fought game since New York is fourth in the conference and Boston is second and they both want to fight hard to keep their seeding.
When you first look at it, it might not look like much since there isn’t a lot separating the Bruins and the Islanders but this game matters. Why? The Bruins’ want to get more distance from the Toronto Maple Leafs and so their top priority is solidifying their hold on second place in an Atlantic Division. They can’t beat the Tampa Bay Lightning but they can get home ice in the first round of the playoffs so expect a lot of fight from the Bruins.
On the other side, the Islanders want to vie for the top spot in the Metropolitan division. They come into tonight’s game with an identical record to the Washington Capitals, and both these teams have only 10 games left to play in the regular season so either can come out on top and it drastically changes who the Isles will play in round one. Look for them to defend their terrain hard and squash the B’s flow.
You’ll know about that flow if you celebrated St. Paddy’s day and caught some NHL highlights this past weekend. It’s likely you saw the Conor McGregor puck drop in Boston;
But the main highlight was Brad Marchand’s OT goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and his post-goal McGregor swagger.
That’s the same swagger that could carry over into tonight’s game. What’s a bonus for Boston? David Pastrnak could possibly return from a thumb injury at Nassau Coliseum. The 22-year-old forward hasn’t seen action since Feb. 10, and has missed 16 games so far. He’s got 31 goals and 35 assists in 56 games this season which is crazy, but lucky for the Bruins he’s been cleared to play and should be a game-time decision for coach Bruce Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron is the Boston leader with a plus-18 and Marchand has scored seven goals in the last 10 games for Boston and is on a roll.
In New York, Anders Lee is leading his team with 27 goals, with an impressive 20 assists for an overall 47 points and Mathew Barzal has been doing his part banking seven assists in the last 10 games for the Isles. Islanders Scott Mayfield and Thomas Hickey have played two really good games against Detroit and Minnesota this past weekend. And Johnny Boychuk is on the path to getting back on the ice after almost losing his head to Jakub Voracek of the Flyers. Robin Lehner should be in net and has also been giving solid net-minding.
“From the few times we play them, they’re very hard to play against. They have a good system. They made some changes in management, and they’re playing into their strength. It’s always a handful to play them.” — Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
“That top line is dangerous; you’ve got to make sure you know what you’re doing out there when you’re against them. You’ve got to be smart with the puck, you’ve got to be hard against them and you’ve just got to limit their chances. Great players find ways to get chances; it’s going to happen. You’ve just got to make sure you limit them as much as possible. If we do that and we stay out of the box, that only gives us a better chance to win.” — Islanders center Casey Cizikas
The advantage should boil down to home ice tonight, so look for the Bruins to be held off while others in the division catch up and make this race exciting.
Pick: Islanders win, 6 plus goals
Moneyline: Boston Bruins – 115 / New York Islanders – 105