Tonight, the Boston Bruins host the New York Islanders in the TD Garden at 7:08PM. The Islanders got off to a fast and hot start to their season winning their first four games before losing their last two. Over the last three seasons the Bruins have had some hard games against the Islanders and have allowed their power play to be the difference maker. With John Tavares as their Captain and leading scorer, the Islanders have used speed and first period scoring to put teams on their heels and try to stifle them in come backs. The Islanders are no longer a team that has to do that.
In the off season their GM Garth Snow, changed the back end of his team making them much more balanced. He brought in Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson to completely turn over the goaltending and Mikhail Grabowski and Nikolay Kulimen to add depth to their secondary scoring and power play units. Grabowski and Kulimen were both former Maple Leafs that used to play together. With plenty of cap space and knowing some pretty good teams had cap issues, the Islanders were in a good spot to help the Blackhawks and Bruins when they needed to free up some space by moving a defenseman off their teams. They were able to land Nick Leddy and John Boychuk to shore up a previously weak defensive corp and now have the most complete team they have had in a generation. The Islanders are now a very good team of well balanced parts that can skate and compete on any given night with any team in the NHL. Tavares and his line mate Kyle Okposo are fast and lethal in the offensive zone and have matured into point a game players. In the past when the Islanders could get to overtime, they relied on Okposo and Tavares to win games in shootouts. The addition of Boychuk has also added a layer of leadership to the team in a player that will do anything to help in any situation. Boychuk with new found opportunities on the power play has delivered and he has two goals and four assists in six games. Leddy has come to the Islanders from Chicago where he has played quality minutes the last two years behind the best corp of defensemen in the league. He is only 23 but has a great shot and can play in all situations.
The Bruins are coming off their first back to back wins of the season and perhaps their best two games of the season. I'm expecting Niklas Svedberg to get the start coming off a shutout against Buffalo and the Bruins having scored 9 goals in the last two games, might finally be shaking out of their funk.
Keys to the game: Now that the Bruins power play has come to life in the last week, they have to keep it going and get 1-2 goals from it nightly. They again must find a way to be disciplined and stay away from penalties as the Islanders move the puck fast and strike quick with the man advantage. In the past the Islanders have had a hard time containing Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and the second line is overdue to put up more than just one goal in a game. The Third line after holding the team together with their efforts in the first four games have gone silent and also need to be heard from.
Concerns: Chad Johnson was our backup goalie last year and may get the start and have something to prove. He can steal a game when he's on his game and he's seen plenty of what the Bruins have to offer. John Boychuk will be well received by the Garden faithful and was held in high esteem by his former team mates, that may take the Bruins off their game a bit in the first period. Getting behind in games is not something the current Bruins team responds well too.
Sidebar: I think Chad Johnson gave us everything he had and more last year, it stank that we never really said goodbye the proper way. I hope the fans remember him as well as Boychuk tonight and I wish them well and good luck in their careers.
Until Next Time!