Bruins-Islanders preview: Respect the Isles

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Bruins-Islanders preview: Respect the Isles

It should be a situation ideally suited for the Bruins when they host a rare Friday night game against the New York Islanders at TD Garden. The Isles are jumping into the second end of a back-to-back situation after they blasted the Toronto Maple Leafs for seven goals last night at Nassau Coliseum.

In fact the Islanders are within distance of the top spot overall in the Eastern Conference and only the Tampa Bay Lighting have scored more goals than New York coming out of the East. Michael Grabner has three goals and five points in the Isles first three games, and the Bruins are very wary of overlooking a team thats had a rough time over the last few seasons.

Claude Julien practically busted into Aretha Franklin lyrics when he was asked if the Islanders are one of those teams that might sneak into the playoffs given the shortened 48-game schedule.

Im being honest here when I say that our team respects the New York Islanders because we know what they have, said Claude Julien. Theyve got a great lineup and some good players that, if you dont respect them, theyll make you pay for it.

The Bruins won three of four from the Islanders last season, though Bs fans will remember the one loss included Tuukka Rask going down with a groinabdomen injury that helped sink Bostons playoff chances.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Chris Bourque has zero points and zero shots on net to go along with a minus-2 rating in the teams first three games, and is looking to get his offensive game going at the NHL level. After leading the AHL with 93 points last season the 26-year-old winger is still looking to find that offensively impactful game at the next level. As a forward line the Bruins trio of Bourque, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have been quiet in the first three games, and could be headed for a breakout night against the Islanders.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Theyve got a lot of speed and a lot of offense, up front especially. Theyre playing good hockey and I think well have a great game tonight. Chris Kelly ready for the offensive challenge brought on by the Islanders.

KEY MATCHUP: All the attention will be paid to the Matt MoulsonJohn Tavares line, but it will be up to the second tier of the Bruins defense (SeidenbergHamilton and the BourqueKellyPeverley) to handle the Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen and Brad Boyes line that torched the Maple Leafs last night. Grabner leads the Islanders with three goals and five points, and the speedy forward is among the top 10 scorers in the NHL to start the season. The bottom line is that theres a lot of depth in the Isles offensive attack if Rick DiPietro and the defense can hold the Bruins at bay.

STAT TO WATCH: 0 the number of goals for Isles superstar John Tavares in the first three games of the season, though he does have five assists in the last couple of games.

INJURIES: Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) is a game-time decision for the Bruins, but Bruins coach Claude Julien is optimistic that the defenseman will be able to play Friday night. The Islanders are without forwards Josh Bailey (knee surgery) and Jesse Joensuu (groin)

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask will be making his fourth straight appearance to start the season, and is coming off arguably his best game of the season after making 29 saves with a tempest whirling around him. For the season Rask is 2-0-1 with a 1.95 goals against average and a .926 save percentage, and the Bruins will take those kinds of numbers stretched out over the long haul. Winthrop native and former Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro will get the start for the Islanders in his season debut, and still has the long hair and beard that would make Johnny Damon nod his head in approval. DiPietro hasnt played in an NHL game since December of last season after going down with a sports hernia.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.