Through 16 games this season, the Boston Bruins have lost three games in regulation as they’ve climbed up to the top perch of the Eastern Division. Two of those losses have come at the hands of the New York Islanders.
The temporary division rivals in the NHL’s altered season will face off for the third of eight meetings this season on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET) at Nassau Coliseum where the recipe from the Islanders’ previous 1-0 and 4-2 triumphs will remain the same for Boston.
“Those were two huge wins,” Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech said Wednesday afternoon. “They were definitely defensive, playoff-style hockey games and I think that’s the way we need to play against them. They have a lot of firepower up front…. not a team you want to get into a track meet with.”
That firepower is headlined by the “perfection line” of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron — one of the most high-profile and overwhelming trios in all of hockey.
They’ve combined for 25 goals alone this season, accounting for more than half of their team’s 49 tallies so far in 2021, while owning the Islanders prior to 2021.
“You’re probably not going to stop the power play and the big line. They’re going to have an effect on the game,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “You have to play a hard game… They’re a straight-line team.
“As dynamic as their first line is… they go north, they put pucks in play, and they execute. We beat them a couple of ways but the No. 1 way for us is to match their north, south game every night.”
That means a direct, hard-nosed style of hockey that is continuously personified by third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who just so happens to have three of his seven goals this year against Boston — including the game-winner inside five minutes to go in regulation in that 1-0 win on Jan. 18.
Nine of his 96 career goals have come against the Bruins, which is tied for most against any team.
“Everybody has that team that you seem to have good luck against,” Trotz said of Pageau. “I don’t know if that was the time he spent with [the Ottawa Senators], going out in the Atlantic Division a lot, but he plays hard. He plays that north, south game.
“Maybe it’s as easy as that… You have to battle for those inches and with Pager’s DNA, he’s the kind of guy who loves that stuff, to battle you 1-on-1… and produce. Hopefully, that continues.”
Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the Islanders acquiring Pageau in a trade from Ottawa where the third-line center has ingratiated himself to the fan base and his coach.
“He’s a huge part of what we envisioned in the organization in terms of what he would bring. He’s brought exactly that if not more; those intangible things that don’t get a lot of fanfare,” Trotz said. “If you think about it, he’s produced at a high level and we’ve given him practically every winger on the team to work with and play every position other than defense and goalie… He’s very coachable, he’s low maintenance, he’s just a real good pro.”