Through the first five games of their second-round playoff series, the New York Islanders profess to care only about the slim advantages they possess on the scoreboard and not how they are faring in any peripheral categories.
But the Islanders don’t seem to mind the idea that the Boston Bruins appear at least as obsessed with the distribution of power plays in the series as they are with the suddenly perilous state of their season.
The Islanders will look to advance to the NHL semifinals for the second straight season Wednesday night when they host the Bruins in Game 6 of an increasingly feisty and entertaining playoff series at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Islanders took a 3-2 series lead by winning Game 5 Monday. Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves, and New York scored three power-play goals before surviving a third-period push by the host Bruins to earn a 5-4 victory.
“New York Saints”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who said following Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Game 4 that Boston hasn’t “gotten very many calls to put us on the power play” during the playoffs, ramped up his rhetoric Monday night. Cassidy said the Islanders “sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints,” which ironically is the name of a former National League Lacrosse franchise that played at Nassau Coliseum.
The Bruins finished with four penalties Monday and have racked up 44 penalty minutes in the series, eight more than the Islanders. Boston collected 533 penalty minutes during the regular season, the fifth-most in the league. New York finished with 370 minutes, the third-fewest total.
“They play hard and they play the right way,” Cassidy said of the Islanders. “The exact calls that are getting called on us do not get called on them, and I don’t know why.”
Informed of the Saints comment during Monday night’s postgame Zoom, Islanders coach Barry Trotz shrugged.
“You’ll have to ask him about that,” Trotz said. “Just look at where we ended up during the year. I think we were one of the least-penalized teams in the whole league. I don’t know what he means about that.”
The NHL on Tuesday morning fined Cassidy $25,000 for his comments.
“We’re told before the series that we have to keep our comments civil,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “I thought it was. They didn’t see it that way.”
Islanders and Bruins series may conclude tonight
The increasingly undermanned Bruins acknowledged Monday they have more urgent issues than the officiating. Boston has outshot the Islanders 196-143 in the series, including 44-19 Monday night, when the absence of penalty killers Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller (upper-body injuries) were magnified.
In addition, goalie Tuukka Rask, who has been battling undisclosed physical ailments most of the series, was benched for the third period. Cassidy expressed confidence Rask will return Wednesday night.
“We just need to keep plugging away,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said Monday. “I think everybody is stepping up, and we’re trying to work together as a group to pick up for those guys.
“The fourth one is the hardest to win. We’re going to New York to win a game, and that’s all that’s on our mind.”
That’s one thing the two teams can agree upon.
“At the end of the day, there’s only one stat that you can count — it’s not the shots on goal, it’s the score clock,” Trotz said Monday. “You win games different ways, and this group has learned that over the course of the playoffs. But to get the fourth one is the toughest game. Boston’s going to bring their ‘A’ game. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game. And we’ll just leave it at that.”
–Field Level Media