As the second-round East Division playoff series between the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders returns tonight to the TD Garden for Game 5 with the series tied 2-2, this could be considered the biggest game of the series to date.
Why? Well for starters, the team that wins Game 5 of an NHL playoff series that is tied 2-2 goes on to win the series 78.8-percent (%) of the time. Another reason why this game is important is for the simple fact that the Bruins don’t want to head back to Long Island Wednesday night for Game 6 trailing 3-2 and facing elimination.
During the regular season, the Black and Gold lost all four trips to the Nassau Coliseum, before winning Game 3 Thursday night in overtime, 2-1. Saturday night, a lackluster performance from Bruce Cassidy’s crew led to a 4-1 loss and a tied series heading back to Boston.
If the Bruins are able to win tonight, then they set themselves up in a good position over the next two games. How can the Bruins win tonight? Well for starters, they need to get ahead of the Islanders so that they can’t play their style of hockey that coach Barry Trotz has made very successful with an aggressive forecheck and a defensive-minded style.
New York will not panic down a goal, but in the case of Semyon Varlamov the Islanders goalie, chasing goals against him is something you don’t want to be doing regularly. He is 7-2 against Boston this season and seems to play his best hockey (Brad Marchand’s overtime goal in Game 3 aside) when he has a lead.
Boston’s top two lines struggled mightily in Game 4 and did not really get many dangerous shots or chances on Varlamov. Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak never really had many high-danger scoring chances. The same could be said for the second-line of Taylor Hall-David Krejci–Craig Smith. The second-line did produce the regulation goal in Game 3 on Smith’s snipe from the slot and Krejci scored the lone Bruins goal Saturday night in Game 4 on the power play, but they need to generate more 5-on-5.
The Bruins bottom-six had a night to forget in Game 4, which prompted Cassidy after the game to float out the possibility that changes could be in the mix for Game 5.
Changes or not, Game 5 is a big game for the Bruins in the big picture. Heading to Long Island Wednesday night with a chance to close out the series is a much better situation than heading there playing for their season and trying to get the series back to Boston for a Game 7 Friday night.