¡¡¡¡As the Islanders and Bruins shift their battlefield to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night, the Bruins own home-ice advantage in the teams¡¯ best-of-seven second-round playoff series.
¡¡¡¡With the series tied 2-2 and two of the remaining three games ¡ª if it goes the full seven ¡ª slated to be at TD Garden, for the Islanders to advance to the NHL final four for the second straight year, they¡¯ll have to win at least one game in Boston.
¡¡¡¡But they already have done that once, having taken Game 2 of the series there, 4-3, in overtime. Likewise, the Bruins won Game 3 at Nassau Coliseum in overtime, 2-1, to regain their home-ice advantage.
¡¡¡¡So is there any real home-ice advantage for either team in the series?
¡¡¡¡There is one.
¡¡¡¡After the Islanders¡¯ 4-1 win in Game 4 on Saturday night, Islanders coach Barry Trotz was asked why he had matched the Jean-Gabriel Pageau line against Boston¡¯s top line in the two games at the Coliseum whereas Brock Nelson¡¯s line went against the Bruins¡¯ No. 1 line most often in Boston.
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¡¡¡¡Trotz said that was because at the Coliseum, he got the last line change and was able to get the matchup he wanted. In Boston, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had the last change, and he dictated the matchups.
¡¡¡¡So presuming Cassidy will want to keep his top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Mar-chand and David Pastrnak away from Pageau¡¯s line, Trotz either will have to live with having Nelson¡¯s line working against Bergeron and Co. or will have to try to find ways ¡ª such as changing on the fly ¡ª to get Pageau¡¯s line on against Bergeron.
¡¡¡¡That is easier said than done.
¡¡¡¡Island Ice Ep. 95: Isles tie series with Bruins at 2-2
¡¡¡¡The guys discuss Game 4 of the Isles-Bruins playoff series where Mathew Barzal assisted on the tying goal and scored the winning goal.
¡¡¡¡”What happens if you try to change too much on the fly, you never get anything going offensively,¡¯¡¯ Trotz said Sunday after the Islanders held an optional skate before traveling to Boston. “You¡¯re always changing.¡¯¡¯
¡¡¡¡Trotz said he will try to get Pageau on against Bergeron when he can, but for the most part, he¡¯ll just have to trust all his forward lines to be able to do the job against the Bergeron group if and when they are on against them.
¡¡¡¡”We each lost a [home] game even though we had our matchups,¡¯¡¯ Trotz said. “So you just trust the people that you have and see if we can get it done in different ways.
¡¡¡¡”And there¡¯s different tricks, so we¡¯ll try a couple in Boston here and see if we can pull them off.¡¯¡¯
¡¡¡¡One of the things that worked to the Islanders¡¯ advantage in Game 4 in terms of matchups was the faceoff game.
¡¡¡¡Bergeron had the best faceoff percentage in the league in the regular season, winning 62.2% of his draws, but Pageau, the No. 9 faceoff man in the regular season (56.7%), was able to get the better of him Saturday. Pageau went 11-for-19 (58%), most of those coming against Bergeron, who was 10-for-24 (42%).
¡¡¡¡If he can¡¯t get Pageau matched up against Bergeron, Trotz said he will count on the linesmen to make sure Bergeron doesn¡¯t get away with cheating on faceoffs, something he accused him of doing often.
¡¡¡¡”He doesn¡¯t like to get his stick down,¡¯¡¯ Trotz said. “He¡¯s got to come to a stop, and then you have a fair fight. He¡¯s a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the faceoffs, and I¡¯m relying on our very capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure that the cheating doesn¡¯t go on, because he¡¯s good at it.¡¯¡¯
¡¡¡¡By Colin Stephenson
¡¡¡¡Colin Stephenson covers the Rangers for Newsday. He has spent more than two decades covering the NHL and just about every sports team in the New York metropolitan area.