If the season ended today, both the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders would be slated to go to the playoffs. However, the Bruins (10-1-2) have a solid lead in the East Division, while the Islanders (5-4-3) are right on the edge of fourth place.
Boston enters Saturday night’s matchup on a roll, winning five games in a row and nine of their last 10. New York was able to overcome a five-game losing streak with a pair of consecutive wins but lost their most recent game in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday.
Here is a closer look at some stats and players to watch, along with a free pick. Boston is favored on the road at -135, while New York is a +115 underdog at home.
By the Numbers
The Bruins have been the better offensive team this season by a decent margin. Boston is averaging 2.92 goals per game, 18th on hockey, while also registering the fifth-most shots and carrying the league’s seventh-rated power play at 28.6 percent. Compare that to the Islanders, who are averaging the fourth-fewest goals per game at 2.33. New York also ranks 21st in shots and 18th on the power play.
Despite losing key defensemen like Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara over the offseason, Boston’s defense has been the stingiest in the league. The Bruins are allowing a league-low two goals per game and 24.2 shots while also carrying the league’s top penalty kill at 89.8 percent. Although New York doesn’t rank as highly, they have had a top-10 defense this season as well, averaging 2.5 goals allowed and 28.3 shots, ranking fifth and ninth, respectively.
Bruins Betting Preview
The Bruins have been on a tear, to say the least. Boston is coming off of a sweep against New York’s other team, the Rangers, the most recent game being a 1-0 victory. All of Boston’s losses have come by just a single score as well. But one of those losses came early in the season against the Islanders, who blanked the Bruins in a 1-0 shutout.
Boston’s leading scorers are a pair of veterans; Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Bergeron has 10 assists, tied with Charlie McAvoy and David Krejci for the team lead, to go along with six goals. His six goals are second only to Marchand’s eight goals, while Marchand also has eight assists. Two other significant contributors this year have been Nick Ritchie, who scored the lone goal in the shutout versus the Rangers, and David Pastrnak, who already sits at eight points despite appearing in just six games.
Boston’s tandem in net has been excellent as well. Tuukka Rask has been getting the bulk of the starts, going 6-1-1 with a 2.31 GAA and .905 save percentage. But Jaroslav Halak has been one of the best backups in the league, going 4-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA and .937 save percentage.
Islanders Betting Preview
The Islanders started off the season on a high note and have recently turned things around, but they had an awful stretch in the middle of the season that pushed them down the standings. However, those five losses during their losing streak all came on the road, with three of them decided by one goal. Saturday will be just the fifth home game New York has played this season, where they are 3-0-1 and have beaten this Boston team before.
New York does not boast multiple players who are scoring in double figures. Only Matthew Barzal can claim that honor, being tied with Jordan Eberle for five goals and dishing out a team-leading eight assists. Eberle is in second with seven points, thanks to just a pair of assists on the year. Anders Lee has been another goal-scorer for the Islanders, as the captain has four goals this season, with three of them coming on the power play. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is another name to watch, as the center scored the lone goal against Boston earlier this year and his second goal of the season against Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The situation in net has been less of a timeshare than Boston. Semyon Varlamov has been one of the league’s top netminders, going 5-2-2 with a 1.98 GAA and .929 save percentage. The rookie Ilya Sorokin is his backup, as the 25-year old is 0-2-1 with a 3.65 GAA and .870 save percentage to begin his career.
The last game between these teams was a low-scoring dog fight, as the Islanders managed to scrape out the win despite putting just 17 shots on net. Expect these two defenses to show up yet again, with Rask and Varlamov guarding the net at a high level. Although Boston has been rolling and is better, I like the upset potential of the Islanders. The Bruins have been on the road in their last six games, including just one day ago against the Rangers. Perhaps fatigue starts to set in against New York, who would love to make this a slugfest with plenty of hits and low-scoring. That, plus the way they’ve played at home this year, has me liking the Islanders as underdogs.
Pick: Islanders +115