2021 NHL playoffs: Bruins coach explains challenges Islanders pose

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Bruins coach offers interesting take on challenges Islanders pose originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

After waiting several days, the Boston Bruins finally know their opponent for the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's the New York Islanders, who eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of their first-round series Wednesday night.

When Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy looks at the Islanders and the challenges they pose, he actually sees a lot of his own team.

Complete preview and prediction for Bruins vs. Islanders series

“They’re a patient team. They defend well,” Cassidy said Thursday morning in a Zoom call with reporters. “Obviously, we saw it in the first series, two good goaltenders. They had to go to their plan B, and (Ilya Sorokin) won them all four games. It doesn’t matter who they put in there, they’re going to get good goaltending.

“I think they have a lot of our attributes. They want to be structured, they want to play with discipline, they have good goaltending. Their D certainly get involved, but they want to play defense first. They’ve got different lines that can hurt you. So in that regard, we’re playing ourselves a little bit. Very well-coached. So for us, it’s a matter of staying within ourselves, play the game in front of you, put some pressure on their D."

Cassidy is absolutely right -- there are plenty of similarities between these teams.

Each squad has a top-tier goalie tandem, a strong penalty kill, a talented top-six forward group, a fundamentally sound defensive structure and a willingness to play a tough, physical type of game.

The question for the Islanders is can they continue to have the ice tilted pretty heavily against them and win another playoff series against a quality opponent? The Penguins had a clear advantage at 5-on-5 versus the Islanders, earning 55 to 60 percent of all shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances during 5-on-5 action. Pittsburgh also had the superior special teams play in the six-game series.

Bean: What B's can expect from strong, balanced Islanders team

So, why did the Islanders advance? Well, Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry was awful for most of the series, particularly in the Game 6 clincher. His stick-handling gaffe in double overtime of Game 5 also helped turn the series in New York's favor.

The chances of Bruins goalies Tuukka Rask or Jeremy Swayman playing as poorly as Jarry are extremely low. The Islanders are going to have to create better quality scoring chances and not lose the special teams battle of they're going to beat the Bruins four times in seven games without home ice advantage.