The First Round has come and gone and we’re on to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Islanders should be one of the tighter matchups of the Second Round. The Philadelphia Flyers had a tough series against the Montreal Canadiens, where they were outshot and outscored by the 8th seeded Canadiens over the span of six games. However, the Flyers managed to squeak out a victory on the backs of Carter Hart and their defence.
The New York Islanders First Round matchup was a completely different story. They took it to the highly talented Washington Capitals eliminating them in just five games and outscoring them 17-8. The Islanders dominated the series in all aspects of the game keeping the elite Washington offence at bay all series long while turning up their own offence averaging 3.4 goals per game.
Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Islanders
Given how both goaltenders played in the First Round, this should be the biggest storyline of the series. We’ll start with Carter Hart. Hart defeated his idol Carey Price in the First Round posting outstanding numbers with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. It was Hart’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and despite getting pulled in Game 2 and almost getting pulled again in Game 5, however, was put back in after the goal was disallowed. Hart showed resilience bouncing back after both losses and posting back to back shutouts in Game 3 and 4 after his first loss and making 31 saves in Game 6 after allowing four goals in the Game 5 loss. Hart was his cool, calm and collected self in his first playoff series, showing no signs of jitters and was reminiscent of an early Carey Price.
Semyon Varlamov was even better. Varlamov allowed eight goals in five games, posting a 1.59 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage with one shutout. What makes it even more impressive is that he posted those numbers against a high-power Washington Capitals offence. The Capitals were the fourth highest-scoring team in the regular season, however, struggled to beat their former netminder.
Defence Wins Championships
The defence for both teams played magnificently in the First Round. The Flyers allowed 13 goals against in six games, averaging just over two goals per game against. They also managed to shut the Canadiens out in back to back games thanks to executing a neutral zone trap that stifled the Canadiens. The Flyers have one of the most solid defence groups in the league which is lead by Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen. The pairing draws the toughest matchups every single game and average over 22 minutes of ice time each. Provorov lead all Flyers in ice time with 25:16 per game. But it’s not just the top pairing that’s impressive for the Flyers. The Flyers defence depth is outstanding to the point that Shayne Gostisbehere is an extra. Ghost would be in most team’s top six, however, the Flyers defence group is well rounded enough that he is not needed.
As impressive as the Flyers defence is, the Islanders maybe even better. As mentioned earlier, the Islanders only allowed eight goals against the high scoring offence of the Capitals. Unlike the Flyers who ride Provorov hard and then the minutes continuously drop off, the Islanders have a pretty even timeshare going on their back end which helps the team keep the legs fresh. The top pairing of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech led the way with just under 22 minutes per game, followed closely behind by Nick Leddy and Devon Toews. Their top five defenders all average over 17:30 per game which is outstanding to be able to trust your defenders that much you can basically just continuously roll them.
The biggest difference entering this series is the way the offences are performing. Which oddly enough, is the complete opposite of how they performed in the regular season. Philadelphia finished seventh overall in goals for in the regular season. Of the teams left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they would be third. The Flyers scored just 11 goals in the First Round against the Canadiens. Six of those came off deflections from the Habs’ own players. Leading regular-season scorer Travis Konecny, who put up 61 points in the regular season, was held to one in six games.
The Islanders were the exact opposite. In the regular season, the Islanders finished 24th overall in goals for. However, they have 17 goals in five games in the First Round. Their offence was outstanding. All but two regulars contributed offensively and were lead by top players Josh Bailey (6), Anthony Beauvililier (4), Mathew Barzal (4), Anders Lee (3) and Brock Nelson (3). Unlike the Flyers, none of the Islanders players struggled in the First Round. They’ll look to ride that momentum into the Second Round.
Looking at these two squads and how they played in the First Round, the Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Islanders series has the feel of a very low scoring series. Both the Islanders and Flyers are stingy defensively. They do not allow a whole lot of scoring chances and both tend to utilize the trap. Both are also backstopped by two solid goaltenders who gave up next to nothing in the First Round. However, the difference here could be the two offences. If the Islanders can stay hot and keep the momentum from their First Round victory going the Flyers could be in trouble. It’s going to be tough to contain the speed and skill of Barzal.
For the Flyers, they need to get their offence going. Outside of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier, the offence dried up in the First Round. Kevin Hayes managed to get two points in Game 6. However, both goals were off deflections off Canadiens players so we would hardly say he was impressive in the series. The Flyers need to utilize their depth and light a fire under players like Konecny and Hayes if they want to have any chance in this series. It’s not going to get any easier for them, however. They were poor against the Canadiens and the Islanders are an even better team defensively. So their chances of finding a way to start scoring now against a well structured Barry Trotz defence is slim.
With that said, we will take the Islanders in six.