The Boston Bruins' most skilled scorer dominated Game 1 and the New York Islanders' top players were powerless to slow him down or give a strong offensive performance themselves.
This trend must reverse quickly or the Islanders won't be making it back to the semifinal round for the second year in a row.
"Our forwards played great (Saturday night). I thought they attacked, had tons of pace, our skill was on display," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "They really played awesome -- lots of great chances and great looks. When we're moving like that and using each other, often times we're able to carry the momentum of the game."
David Pastrnak is absolutely on fire right now. He's scored in three consecutive playoff games, including a hat trick in the second-round series opener versus the Islanders, which the B's won 5-2 on Saturday night at TD Garden.
It was part of another impressive offensive showing for Boston's top line, which tallied 19 shots on net, three goals and dominated puck possession. The Bruins had a 23-6 edge in shot attempts, a 17-3 lead in shots on net and a 16-4 advantage in scoring chances at 5-on-5 with the first line on the ice in Game 1.
"We got to challenge them a little bit more. We backed off," Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said of Boston's top line after Game 1. "They’re going to make plays through you and all that. We got to tighten up there. We’re going to need more from our lines. I really felt we only had really, probably one line that was really on top of their game. The other lines had spurts, but we’re going to have to be much better.”
The Bergeron line tilting the ice in its favor isn't a great situation for the Islanders but it doesn't have to be a fatal one. Sidney Crosby's line dominated in most of the 5-on-5 shot metrics against the Islanders in Round 1, but New York actually outscored that Penguins trio 5-3 despite giving up most of the shots and scoring chances in the matchup.
Another factor for the Islanders in their six-game first-round triumph over the Penguins was its top-six players produced at a high level offensively, especially the second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. They combined to score nine goals (eight at even strength) in Round 1.
Even though Beauvillier scored a power-play goal in Game 1 against the B's, his line was not great at 5-on-5. The Bruins had a 17-8 edge in shot attempts, a 13-6 lead in shots, a 16-5 advantage in scoring chances and a 2-0 goal differential in 10:30 of 5-on-5 ice time against this Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey trio.
The Islanders' first line wasn't much better. They did score one goal, but three shot attempts at 5-on-5 from that trio is not enough, especially when the Bruins' top line is generating more than 7x that number and scoring more goals.
Mathew Barzal has the ability to be an elite center. He's a point-per-game caliber player and has led New York in scoring four consecutive seasons.
He's been a non-factor throughout the playoffs, though, and Game 1 was another poor performance from him. Barzal didn't tally a single shot attempt, shot on net or scoring chance at 5-on-5. Barzal also lost five of six faceoffs Saturday. He still hasn't scored a goal for the Islanders through seven playoff games and two of his three assists over that span came on the power play.
The Bruins' top line is going to generate offense and possess the puck at a high rate. They've done it for years, even against quality competition. The Bruins' second line likely will do the same, but not to the same level. The B's second line has been one of the league's most impressive groups after the team acquired Taylor Hall following the April 12 trade deadline.
The Islanders are capable of withstanding that offensive fury from the B's top-six and hang around. They did it in Round 1 and emerged victorious, and they did it again in Game 1 through two periods. Despite being dominated at 5-on-5, the game was right there for New York to win early in the third period with the score tied 2-2.
But it's going to be very difficult for the Islanders to repeat what they did in the first round if their top players remain mostly silent, particularly Barzal. Trotz's Game 2 adjustments could determine the outcome of the series.