The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders are set for a second round snarl that should be physical and tough from the jump.
The Flyers find themselves here after winning their first playoff series since 2012, taking out the Montreal Canadiens in six games. The trouble? They were outscored 13-11 in the series. Goalie Carter Hart still had two shutouts against the Habs, but Philly was often outshot and out-pressured.
Against New York, that dynamic will change. The Islanders don’t mind keeping shot totals low. They conquered the Washington Capitals and left them bumbling at times. Better still, New York is seldom out of a game. They win 75 percent of their games when they cough up the first goal and they’re deadly in the third period.
Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov hasn’t needed to be as spectacular as Hart, as he hasn’t faced over 29 shots in a game in this post-season. If the Flyers can change that, they might crack the wall. The last time the Islanders allowed so few shots was in the early 1980s. You know, when they won the Stanley Cup twice.
Philadelphia has outscored opponents two-to-one in even-strength situations. While most teams wait around to excel on special teams, the Flyers have done the opposite. In fact, their power play downright stinks. They’re the worst team on the man-advantage in these playoffs at 11.4 percent.
But it comes back to The Grind™.
The Islanders will wedge things up, play hard on the body, grind games to a halt. That’s the style of Barry Trotz hockey on Long Island and it’s been the recipe for success thus far. These guys don’t like to go away. Their power play isn’t that much better than Philly’s easier, so don’t look for any surprises there.
As far as scoring goes, the Islanders have been getting it from Anthony Beauvillier. He’s got nine points in nine games in the bubble, with two goals in Game Five to send the Capitals packing.
You have to imagine the Flyers want to get James van Riemsdyk going. JVR was a healthy scratch twice against Montreal, but taking on the Islanders might lead Alain Vigneault to reach into his bag of tricks and come up with a proven power play scorer.
Nobody expects this to be the most electrifying series, but fans of good, tight-checking hockey will dig it. The Islanders and Flyers haven’t been past the second round in a long, long time, so somebody’s advancing to uncharted waters in the bubble in 2020. What a year.