Even though the New York Islanders lead the Boston Bruins 3-2 in their East Division final playoff series and the Islanders are at home for Game 6 tonight – possibly the last NHL game ever at venerable Nassau Coliseum – they are slight William Hill Sportsbook moneyline underdogs against the Boston Bruins. That line is a bit of a surprise, especially considering the Bruins may have an issue with injured goaltender and former Vezina winner Tuukka Rask. Reports are that Rask will start Game 6 but may have a short leash with rookie Jeremy Swayman waiting in the wings.
The Islanders are moving to the new $1.5 billion UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., next to the Belmont Park race track starting next season. Thus, if they lose tonight it could be the finale at Nassau Coliseum – Game 7 of this series would back in Boston on Friday. Should the Islanders win, they are guaranteed a few more games at Nassau Coliseum in the "conference finals" against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa would be favored in that series and would have home-ice advantage.
Rask is a bit beaten up and has dropped back-to-back starts. The 34-year-old played pretty well in the Game 4 loss in allowing two goals on 32 shots but was pulled after allowing four goals on just 16 shots in Game 5. This could be Rask's final game with the franchise as he's set for free agency.
Swayman faced three shots in relief of Rask in Game 5 and allowed one goal, which proved to be the game-winner for the Islanders. However, the 22-year-old Swayman was terrific this regular season in going 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .945 SV. He won his lone start vs. the Islanders in a shutout.
Boston allowed three power-play goals in Game 5 and will again be without two key members of its penalty-killing unit in defenseman Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. Center Curtis Lazar also will sit due to injury.
The Bruins did win two road Game 6s facing elimination during their Stanley Cup Final run in 2019. Teams that hold a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven own an all-time series record of 328-88 (.788), including a 4-1 mark in 2021.
New York has no worries in net with Semyon Varlamov. He's 3-1 in this series with a .936 SV and was 5-1 vs. Boston in the regular season with a 1.93 GAA and .943 SV. The Isles' Kyle Palmieri has a four-game point streak in this series with five points (3G, 2A).
In the previous 13 series when the Isles have held a 3-2 lead in a best-of-7, they 12-1 overall in the series and 11-2 in Game 6. The two Game 6 losses were last year to the Flyers (NYI won Game 7) and in 1978 to the Maple Leafs. This writer likes the Islanders to win.
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