Flyers Cling To Victory, Look To Seize Series in Quick Turnaround

The Flyers did their best impression of the Phillies today. They jumped out to an early lead and managed to let it slip through their fingers by the end of the game. Luckily the Flyers managed to win in overtime. 

After being beaten 4-0 in the series opener, the Flyers needed a strong opening period. That wish was fulfilled in just under two minutes. Justin Braun chipped a puck forward to Travis Konecny, who carried the puck into the Islanders zone. He fired a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Kevin Hayes, who rifled a shot past Semyon Varlamov’s short side. A sigh of relief came from the Flyers faithful and Varlamov’s team record shutout streak came to an end. Ironically he only claimed the record 40 seconds into the game.  

Several minutes later, it was Kevin Hayes again beating Varlamov again. Joel Farabee won a puck battle at the opposing blueline and it poked free to Hayes, who held the puck and swept deep into the zone, before roofing the puck in between the top of the net and Varlamov’s shoulder. Hayes was skating well most the game, getting opportunities, and seemed to be up on his skates for the first time in a few games. The goals were his 2nd and 3rd of the playoffs. 

Seeing Hayes play well was encouraging, but seeing Sean Couturier find the net next was an injection of positivity for the squad and the folks watching and listening at home. Travis Sanheim’s pass found Claude Giroux’s stick which he redirected right to Couturier’s stick. He lugged the puck into the zone and had only Nick Leddy to beat which he did. Coots put the puck around Leddy and simply shrugged off the defenseman’s attempt to push him offline. A feint drew Varlamov out of position at which point Couturier went to his backhand and tucked the puck home. The moment was bright, and the 1st period was all Flyers. It also provides a note on Giroux’s play. While the captain hasn’t scored a goal his 5 assists have all come in the series against either Montreal or NYI. He is producing even though he hasn’t ended up getting credit for a goal just yet, but he’s been effective despite the frustration with the 0 in the goal column.

 

TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 26: Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders checks Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 26, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

 

Varlamov was chased from the net and in his place, Thomas Greiss entered the game. The Islanders escaped the period without further damage and in the 2nd managed to regain the pace of play and as they had most of Game 1 pushed the Flyers around. They just needed an opportunity and got it in the form of a Jake Voracek delay of game penalty for clearing the puck out of play in the defensive zone. This lead to a Mat Barzal pass in the slot that Anders Lee deftly deflected past Carter Hart. Matt Niskanen lost his body position and couldn’t get his stick on Lee’s to disrupt the pass. The Flyers penalty kill hasn’t looked as steller as it was in season and is an area where the Islanders have exploited in both games. That would be the only marker in the 2nd period. 

In the 3rd, the Islanders continued their push as the Flyers shelled up defensively. The deflected waves of attack for the first half of the period but eventually succumbed to the constant pressure. A Derek Grant backhand shot bounced off the Islanders goalie and went right to Anthony Beauvillier, who roared through the neutral zone. The Flyers were slow on the backcheck (with a tired Pitlick and JVR being well, JVR) and Beauvillier dropped the puck off the Josh Bailey inside the blue line. That drew Niskanen to him, and he gave the puck right back to Beauvillier who fired quickly, the puck ramping up off of Hart and into the net. It wasn’t the best goal but it was a spark of life for Barry Trotz’s boys. 

Six minutes later, the jaws dropped and the feeling of dread overwhelmed all who watched and listened and had a rooting interest in the Flyers. With 2:09 left in the game, Travis Sanheim tried to throw the puck up the boards to a covered Couturier, who couldn’t handle the pass, and instead, the puck went off Adam Pelech’s stake and back into the zone. It found JG Pageau who corraled the puck, moved a step forward, and fired the puck over Hart’s shoulder, in between his glove and head. The goal itself though would come into question based on a zone entry, which Alain Vigneault challenged. It looked as though the play was offsides, but the Islanders’ forward did not touch the puck in the Flyers zone while the rest of his players cleared, leading to a good goal. The Flyers lost the challenge and managed to kill off the ensuing penalty, but found themselves headed to overtime with no momentum. 

The first Flyers overtime playoff game since 2012 was not an epic contest ruining the rest of the day’s schedule. Instead, the Flyers swarmed early, with the big line of Giroux, Couturier, and Voracek creating a net mouth scramble. Couturier missed his chance at ending the game, but found the puck behind the net and passed it out to the point to Phil Myers. He fired a one-timer which skipped off the ice on it’s way to the goal, changing the movement enough to fool Greiss. Myers’s goal won the game and rescued the Flyers from floundering away a game that should have never been in question. 

A tied series heading into Game 3 is a much better scenario for the Flyers to be in. For the next two games, the Islanders will have a “home ice” advantage and therefore the last change, which could be pivotal in deciding matchups. The Flyers also made some roster moves, with Robert Hagg slotting into the lineup for Shayne Gostisbehere (and being a +2) and JVR coming in for Scott Laughton, who after a rough few games got the day off, though van Riemsdyk didn’t do much to state his case for an extended stay in the lineup. 

You could also make the case that Brian Elliot should start considering games 2 and 3 are back to back. Carter Hart has been good, but in the most recent game gave up two saveable goals. If he starts for Game 3 it will be his 6th in 10 nights and would be his 3rd game in 4 nights. In an unusual playoff situation, it might be time to spell Hart. Even if Elliot was to come in and win, the Flyers would not have a goalie controversy, not like they would in Las Vegas at least. 

Despite the win, the Flyers have a lot to work on. Puck luck was on their side and now they’ll have to prove their mettle to try and take a lead in the series. 

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