It was a test for the Islanders, their game one victory against the Flyers proved they are for real. The Flyers finished the round-robin play with the top seed in the east but have been unable to formalize any offense from their top-six aside from Jakub Vorachek.
This was a real testament to their unwillingness to leave the bubble, the Islanders who are led by a Stanley Cup winning coach in Barry Trotz, are here to stay.
It has become an evident issue and has been at the forefront of the Flyers problems. There have been no goals from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Travis Konecny. Kevin Hayes has had just a single goal. The Flyers are just above average at generating offense, and they depend on their shooting talent. For having the 4th best shooting percentage 5-on-5, the lack of executing on the given scoring chances is the root of the problem.
Previewing The Series And How They Measure Up Against Eachother
Going into this best-of-seven-series, the Islanders are a good defensive team with strong goaltending. Their goaltending is very beneficial to the Islanders club that allows more shots than league average around the net and part of the slot. The Islanders are merely an average team in regards to shot volume. This team is better than it should be, likely due to the systems under Barry Trotz.
An average team at generating offense which is supported by their rate of expected goals. The lack of shooting talent is why there is such a distinct difference as they were a bottom-five team in actual goals for per game. Their offense is dependent on producing in front of the net. They shoot more than league average around the net.
Likewise, the Flyers, on the other hand, are an average team at generating offense but are one of the best finishing teams in the NHL. They focus on shot quality rather than shot quantity. The Flyers are an average team defensively and force the opposition to shoot from the perimeter, which is supported by the lack of shot volume from the center of the ice. They get strong goaltending from 22-year-old Carter Hart. He ranked 7th in goals saved, which is above expected. He saved roughly eight goals more than he should have.
Islanders Take Game One In Decisive Fashion
It is not a surprise that the Islanders had the decisive edge in expected goals in game one.
Nearly six minutes in, Andy Greene fired a slapshot from the point that found its way past Hart. It was his first playoff goal in ten years, and momentum swayed in the Islanders’ favor from that point. The 37-year-old was acquired from the New Jersey Devils, a week before the NHL trade deadline. The Islanders paid a hefty price for the veteran defenseman in which they sent a second-round pick and a prospect to the Devils. He spent his entire career in a Devils uniform, but this was his chance to chase his ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup.
The second period was relatively quiet and did not feature any goal-scoring. Just minutes into the third period, trade deadline acquisition Jean Gabriel Pageau, made his mark. Dump and chase plays are not as effective as a controlled zone entry with possession, but it worked. Adam Pelech threw one at the end boards, and good forechecking led to a quality scoring chance. The puck landed on Pageau’s stick, and he made no mistake. He paid his dues after signing a six-year $30 million contract with the Islanders after the trade occurred.
After a quality zone entry, Jordan Eberle tossed it to Mathew Barzal. Then, Barzal made a beautiful cross-ice pass that went right on the tape of Anders Lee, who finished it. Barzal has been unbelievable and is up for a huge contract extension this offseason.
Devon Toews finished off the night with an empty-net goal courtesy of the Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault. With just over seven minutes left and an offensive zone faceoff, he pulled the goalie for an extra attacker. It backfired quickly after the puck took an unexpected bounce.
Looking Ahead In The Series
The Flyers top-six has to find a way to score if they want to win this series. Their depth and goaltending got them through the nail-biting series against the Canadiens. That will not occur against a team like the Islanders who defeated the Capitals in just five games.
It will also be incumbent for them to suppress shots and keep the Islanders away from where the Islanders score most, right near the net. If they can keep the Islanders to the perimeter and can get some goal-scoring from their top-six forwards, they should beat the Islanders.
On the contrary, the Islanders need to stick to their game. It is a cliche, but they need to control and prevent the Flyers’ top six from generating offense. They have to keep the heavy forecheck that is led by Ross Johnston.
I predict the Flyers to win this series in game 7.
(Data Via NHL.com, Hockey-Reference, Evolving-Hockey & HockeyViz, Image Courtesy Of The Philadelphia Inquirer / Yong Kim (Staff Writer),
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