Much like last season, the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders will likely be one of a few teams battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. This makes tonight’s early season matchup a critical one.
Both teams have been playing rather well over the last 10 games. The Bruins are 7-3 in that span while the high-tempo Islanders are 6-3-1.
Tonight’s contest – the first of three in 2017-18 – leaves several desirable individual matchups. John Tavares vs. Patrice Bergeron in a battle of elite top-line centers. Jake DeBrusk vs. Matthew Barzal in a battle of two 2015 first rounders. The Bruins’ young guns of Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen vs. Josh Ho-Sang, Anders Lee and the talented youth of Islanders forwards.
With two big points up for grabs, any fan that decides to brave the elements in the trek to Causeway Street should get their money’s worth tonight.
Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 13-9-4 (30 points), Islanders 16-9-3 (35 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Anders Bjork
Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Islanders projected lines
Anders Lee-John Tavares-Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd-Matthew Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Brock Nelson-Anthony Beauvillier-Josh Ho-Sang
Jason Chimera-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy-Ryan Pulock
Calvin de Haan-Adam Pelech
Thomas Hickey-Dennis Seidenberg
– As mentioned above, tonight marks the first time that DeBrusk and Barzal go head to head. It might not be a prolific matchup from a draft class a la Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel or Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine, but it bears watching nonetheless. DeBrusk, who returned to the lineup against the Coyotes following a three-game absence, played his best hockey of his young career averaging exactly one point per game in the six games prior to sustaining an undisclosed injury. But it’s Barzal – selected by the Islanders two picks after DeBrusk – who has the upper hand as he comes into Saturday’s game leading all rookies in scoring with 27 points (8 goals, 19 assists). Maybe this will go down as a missed opportunity for the Bruins passing on Barzal, but they’ve been happy with DeBrusk’s performance of late as the Edmonton native is progressing nicely through the ups and downs of his rookie campaign.
– The Bruins and Islanders were guided by two different coaches behind the bench the last time they met at TD Garden last January. Ironically enough, Jack Capuano got the ax after their win over the Black and Gold on Martin Luther King Day, while Claude Julien was fired a couple of weeks later. Their successors, Bruce Cassidy and Doug Weight, have implemented a more up-tempo system and both teams are benefitting from the philosophy. The Islanders come in ranked as the second highest scoring offense in the league with 102 goals (averaging 3.62 goals per game), while the Black and Gold have scored 29 goals over the last nine games and are 7-2 in that span. Given the recent trends, tonight might be a night where defense is optional.