For the first time since 1983, the Boston Bruins will take on the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the B’s finished ahead of the Isles in the standings that year just like this year, they didn’t have the advantages over the Isles than that the current Boston Team has over the current Islanders now.
This year’s B’s team is loaded with talent. All around the ice, you have guys that can be considered elite, or near that level. The Black and Gold have arguably the best first line in hockey with three guys that can score 30 goals in a season. Then at the backend they have some great puck-movers that can also shutdown the opposition as well as great goaltending.
There’s no question that Boston significantly beats the Islanders when it comes to talent level.
However, talented players can be shutdown. They can also fall into slumps, get injured, or get sick and be ineffective. Therefore, no player is as great of an advantage as this.
Possessing home ice will be the Bruins greatest advantage over the Islanders.
With the B’s being the higher seed, they have the privilege of playing more games and starting the series at home in this series than the Isles. This is huge for the Black and Gold as both teams are significantly better at home than on the road.
However, the difference in play was much larger for the Islanders than the B’s. The Isles owned an incredible 21-4-3 record at Nassau Coliseum this season, but they actually had a losing record on the road at 11-13-4.
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The B’s, on the other hand, played well both at home and on the road with a home record of 18-7-3 and a road record of 15-9-4.
Home-ice advantage is great for more than just your home crowd. This also gives the home team the advantage of having the last change, which is where the real advantage is for the B’s.
Having the last change allows head coach Bruce Cassidy to get the matchups he wants for his team. This means he gets to decide which Islanders’ line plays which Boston line. This is detrimental for the Black and Gold as a big part of the Isles gameplay is getting the matchups they want.
This is a big reason why the Islanders struggle away from Nassau Coliseum — Barry Trotz doesn’t have the ability to get the matchups that benefit his team, making it difficult to get not only his offense going but also shutdown the opposition.
This advantage was obvious in the regular-season series between these two teams. The Islanders were able to play their game the first four games as they were home, leading to four wins. However, once the series switched over to TD Garden, the B’s were able to play their game and won three out of four.
In sum, getting the line matchups that benefit the B’s will be key to beating the Islanders in this series. If Boston can do that, it won’t matter if they don’t win a single game at Nassau Coliseum because they would have mostly won every game at TD Garden — meaning they won the series in seven games.