The Islanders may not be playing for much but they will attempt to knot the season series with the Bruins at two games as the regular season draws to a close.

Although the Boston Bruins (44-24-11) and the New York Islanders (30-37-12) may be going in opposite directions, with Boston gearing up for the NHL’s second season and New York searching for exotic vacation destinations, they both have little to gain in tonight’s matchup.  Boston is essentially entrenched in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with nothing to gain in their last three games while the Islanders’ playoff hopes have been eliminated for quite some time.  Tonight will feature a Boston team looking to dispatch an inferior Islanders club but hopefully able to stay healthy in the process.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition recently.  They defeated last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, Chicago and Philadelphia, in consecutive games, just a little over a week ago.  Yet they followed those huge wins with a loss to the out of the playoff money Toronto Maple Leafs, at home no less.  Boston has been a team that has had the good fortune of some outstanding goaltending by Tim Thomas and his capable understudy, Tuukka Rask, but they have sputtered against the weaker sisters of the league.  In their last game, the Bruins built a 3-0 lead over the New York Rangers but fell apart as the game went on dropping a 5-3 decision and incurring the wrath of head coach Claude Julien.  Squandering leads to New York teams has not been unusual for the Bruins this season.  Look no further than March 11th when the B’s had a 2-0 advantage over the Islanders at the Coliseum, only to implode and ultimately fall 4-2.  While it’s of paramount importance that the Bruins stay healthy, they must be able to harness a killer instinct as they enter the postseason.

New York Islanders

The Islanders saw their playoff aspirations dashed early in the season when they lost 18 of 20 games between October 23rd and December 13th.  It was a miserable stretch and one from which they never fully recovered.  Recently they’ve been up to their old tricks, losing 4 of five, with their latest effort a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes in front of their home crowd.  On the bright side, 1st round draft pick John Tavares may just be a superstar in the making.  The 20 year old center from Ontario has been a beacon of light in a dismally gray season.  Tavares leads the team with 64 points and will be a household name if Isles management can surround him with better talent on the wings. 

Defensively, goaltender Rick DiPietro (he of the 15 year contract) has not been the rock between the pipes the Islanders counted on headed into the season.  The problem with signing players to ridiculously long contracts is that they have a tendency to get injured.  Specifically knee injuries, like the one which has derailed Di Pietro’s career and has allowed recently acquired backup Al Montoya to showcase his talents.  However, one goaltender no matter how good, will not singlehandedly turn this team into a solid contender.  New York is a -30 in plus/minus differential and they are several players away from competing with the upper echelon clubs like the Boston Bruins.

Game time

The Bruins have to be kicking themselves after their lethargic second half performance against the New York Rangers.  There are still roster moves which must be made headed into the playoffs with rookie Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder and a few others hoping to be part of the lineup and not part of the audience.  Although the Bruins are only 20-18 (factoring in ties that were lost in overtime or shootouts) and -10.2 units at home for their backers, I tend to think talent and determination will overcome any complacency they may have concerning the Islanders who are 13-26 ATS on the road this season.  Although it’s tough to lay north of 2 to 1 on anything, it’s even tougher to bet the big underdog only to tear up the ticket.  Bet the Bruins tonight in Boston.