The Islanders are on the cusp of returning to the same point in the playoffs at which their run ended last season in the expanded bubble playoffs.
A win over the Bruins on Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum would punch the Islanders’ ticket as the champion of the East Division. That would send them up against a team they have yet to face this season because of the NHL’s realignment to minimize travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
If the Islanders lose, this second-round series would come down to a sudden-death Game 7 in Boston on Friday night.
“The last one is always the hardest to get,” said Jordan Eberle, who had a power-play goal in the Islanders’ 5-4 Game 5 win on Monday night. “But we’re excited to go back to the Coliseum. You guys have seen it, how loud it’s been, it helps us, it gives us some juice.
“Watch some video, get prepared and be ready for another tough battle.”
If there’s anything for the Islanders to take away, it’s how they defended in the final minutes of Monday’s game. The Bruins garnered 73 shot attempts through the first 54:43 of the game, but were limited to just three in the final 5:17, after David Krejci made it a one-goal game late in the third.
The Islanders have successfully worked to protect leads in the past two games of this series, buckling down in the final period to pull out wins. They also did it in Game 4 , keeping the pressure up after Mathew Barzal made it 2-1 more than halfway through the third, which led to empty-net goals from Casey Cizikas and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
“We’ll be desperate [Wednesday], they will be desperate,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday, an off-day for the team. “To get the fourth one is always the toughest. I think guys understand that they’ve got to leave their best game out there. If we leave our best game out there, hopefully we get the result, and if we do, then we advance. If we don’t, we go to Game 7 and we’ll have to have our best game there in Boston.
“I think guys understand that. I don’t think there’s any magic to it, it’s just understanding the reality of it. And how hard it is to finish off a team.”
Oliver Wahlstrom missed a sixth straight game Monday as he continues to nurse a lower-body injury he sustained in Game 5 of the first-round series against the Penguins.
Trotz said Tuesday the rookie sharpshooter is still “day-to-day” and unavailable.
In addition to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s $25,000 fine for his postgame criticism of the officiating, Nick Ritchie was fined $5,000 (the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement) for elbowing Scott Mayfield in the first period.