Bruins-Islanders Game 1 observations: B's top line dominates in win

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Game 1 observations: Islanders no match for dominant B's top line originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- The Bruins had nearly a week of rest between the first and second rounds of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the long layoff didn't seem to bother them in a Game 1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

TD Garden played host to a near-capacity crowd for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year as 17,4000 fans saw the B's earn a 5-2 victory to open Round 2.

Here are three observations from Game 1.

1) Bruins' top line still red hot

The Islanders had no answers for the Bruins' first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. This trio picked up right where it left off after a stellar Round 1 versus the Washington Capitals.

Pastrnak was the best of the group. He scored a hat trick, finding the net once on the power play and twice more at even strength. Bergeron picked up assists on Pastrnak's first two goals and Marchand earned a helper on his linemate's second tally.

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Here's a look at how the Bruins fared at 5-on-5 when the Bergeron line was on the ice. The advantage for the B's was significant.

Bergeron Line 5v5

Bruins

Islanders

Shot Attempts

23

6

Shots on Net

17

3

Scoring Chances

16

4

Goals

1

0

These numbers are nothing new for Boston's top trio. It's been a trend all playoffs (and for several years, quite frankly).

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This line accounted for 19 of Boston's 40 shots on net at all strengths. They spent a ton of time in the attacking zone and created an abundance of scoring chances.

This series will be a very challenging one for the Islanders if they don't find a way to slow down the Bruins' top line. New York struggled in most shot metrics at 5-on-5 against Sidney Crosby's line in Round 1 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Saturday was more of the same for the Islanders. 

2) Mathew Barzal still hasn't scored for NYI

The Islanders' top center and leading scorer for four consecutive seasons still doesn't have a goal in seven games during the 2021 playoffs.

Barzal was mostly a non-factor in Game 1 with zero points, only one shot on net and two penalty minutes. He also failed to tally a single shot attempt, shot on net or scoring chance during 13:43 of 5-on-5 action. Barzal lost five of his six faceoffs, too.

The Bruins' best players shined in the series opener and it was the difference in the game. The Islanders' best player made the opposite impact, and it's hard to envision New York's offense matching Boston's firepower in this series if Barzal's struggles continue.

3) Bruins' bottom-six must be better

Only six of the Bruins' 40 shots on net came from their bottom-six forwards, and half of them came from Chris Wagner. The B's also generated just five scoring chances in 17:42 of 5-on-5 ice time from the third and fourth lines, compared to 24 scoring chances and 24 shots on net from the top-six forwards. 

Boston's third line, specifically, didn't create nearly enough in the attacking zone. One shot from Charlie Coyle and zero from both Jake DeBrusk and Nick Ritchie is subpar, to say the least. Ritchie, in fairness, did set a good screen on Charlie McAvoy's go-ahead goal in the third period. 

The bottom-six could see a bit of a shakeup Monday night depending on the status of second-line winger Craig Smith, who left the game with a lower body injury in the second period and didn't return. B's head coach Bruce Cassidy didn't have an update on Smith after the game. DeBrusk was moved up from the third line to skate in Smith's place alongside Taylor Hall and David Krejci.

The lackluster performance from the bottom-six didn't cost the Bruins in Game 1 because the Bergeron line was so dominant, but the Islanders are a really good defensive team and it wouldn't be shocking if they kept the top line in check for a game or two. The B's third line will have to step up at some point. So far, it's been a non-factor for most of the playoffs.