The Flyers Game 5 win against the Islanders was essentially a bingo board for the Flyers 2019-2020 season and the problems we’ve become so used to for years with the orange and black. Here are the game observations, and notes from the action.
Giroux Gets Called Out, Snaps Out Of Funk
After the mainstream media tunes in long enough to run with a narrative that he’s toasted, Claude Giroux scores his first goal of the playoffs and gets an assist on the game-winning overtime goal. He now has 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) over the two series the Flyers have played so far. Throughout the playoffs, in his career Giroux has played 83 games and has 72 points (25 goals, 47 assists) playing both wing and center as well as having a variety of linemates including legendary Flyer names like Aaron Asham and Nikola Zherdev. Giroux has been unselfish and done everything asked of him from a variety of coaches in a number of different situations throughout his career. He’s got issues as a player, and at 32 years old those will eventually become glaring, but the captain has always been one who puts out the effort. Watch the next game for it and you just might notice it.
The Flyers might really need a vintage Giroux performance if Sean Couturier is unable to go in Game 6. In the 2nd period of the game against the Islanders, he attempted to throw a hit on Mat Barzal, who ducked to avoid his upper body but was unable to dodge everything. Couturier’s knee collided with Barzal’s and Couturier would not come out for the 3rd period or the overtime.
Alain Vigneault gave no update on Coots during his media availability. He’s dealt with knee issues before, tearing an MCL while colliding with Radko Gudas, and then aggravating the same knee injury before the 2018-2019 season. Despite an up and down playoff, the Selke Trophy nominee is one of the most important players to the playoff run. If he can’t go the logical replacements in the lineup will be either Michael Raffl or Connor Bunnaman. A longshot darkhorse candidate to insert into the lineup is Morgan Frost, but most don’t expect he’ll be the selection. All of those guys would likely end up slotting into the bottom 6 while someone like JVR or Scott Laughton moves to the top 6. Other than that, additional lineup changes are not expected.
The Lead That Keeps Going Away
After Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Matt Niskanen got off the snide and all scored their first goals of the postseason and the Flyers 3-1 lead had things seeming fine, finally. Of course, as Flyers fans started to relax the team went into their shell and promptly gave up two goals.
The Flyers are a team that has to play until the end of the game. They can not “be water” like Bruce Lee or employ a bamboo style “bend but not break” defense. Under repeated pressure, the Flyers will crack. When they are playing full bore they are a crafty counter-attacking team that has the ability to control the puck for large stretches of time.
An even more important reason to continue to play a 200-foot game rather than converge on the net and play defense only is having a young goaltender like Carter Hart. At times Hart has been outstanding, but we’ve seen cracks in the armor of the 22-year-old goalie. We’ve seen him give up a few bad goals this postseason, including goal 2 in Game 5, which kickstarted the Islander comeback. Hart has stood up to the pressure for the most part and was great in the overtime period but it is clear that right now he needs help. This isn’t a series where he can shutout a team with ease like against the Canadiens. The Flyers need to keep up on the attack not only for their sake but for Carter Hart’s as well.
Laughton Rides Again
Scott Laughton has had one of the most interesting seasons of any Flyer. Despite only playing 49 games, he had 27 points and already had set a career-high in goals. He continued his hot streak into the round-robin, with points in each game. Then he went stone cold in the Montreal series. Then he went from not playing well to actively hurting the Flyers against the Islanders early and sitting down as a healthy scratch. Now he’s back like a pissed off wolverine who just got kicked. An assist and overtime goal dotted his comeback as he flew around the ice and was again the bringer of chaos that’s made him such an effective player.
His ability to play center and wing makes him an interesting option going forward if Couturier can not play. It would also leave Alain Vigneault with one of his biggest lineup decisions to date. Keep Laughton with JVR and Pitlick, a line that inexplicably looks good whenever it’s on the ice, or to shuffle one of those two and break up what has once again become an effective third line.
We’ll find out what AV wants to do and if the Flyers can escape elimination once more in Game 6 on Thursday, September 4th at 7 pm.