No real adjustments were made by the Philadelphia Flyers after their series victory against the Montreal Canadiens. That will not fly against the New York Islanders. The Philadelphia Flyers are now 0-4 against the Islanders in 2019-2020. Luckily, we are not talking about a playoff sweep. Down 0-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Flyers have an opportunity to neutralize the series on Wednesday.
Moments before puck drop, I snuck a peek at the Philadelphia Flyers lineup. The Flyers were not a team built for speed in game one. Instead, Alain Vigneault planned a less than ideal strategy against a talented New York Islanders team led by Barry Trotz. Philadelphia was able to man the floodgates for two periods, but the third period became overwhelming. At the end of the final horn, Semyon Varlamov became the first Islanders goaltender to record back-to-back playoff shutouts in franchise history.
In the first two periods of this game, Carter Hart robbed the New York Islanders of multiple goals. The Islanders could have been up, 3-0, by the end of the first period. Reminiscent of game two against the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers only took a handful of shots in the first period. Andy Greene scored his first goal of the postseason, giving New York an early lead. At the end of the first period, the Islanders led the Flyers in shots, 15-4.
The only highlight for the Philadelphia Flyers in game one was the second period. They did not come out flat and nearly caught up to the New York Islanders shot total. What would have made the period sweeter was solving Semyon Varlamov. Travis Konecny had an opportunity as he crashed the net, but could not get a hold of the puck. Claude Giroux was also unable to bury a rebound off Varlamov.
Just when it felt like the Philadelphia Flyers regained some momentum in game one, the bottom fell out. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his fifth goal of the playoffs when the puck wandered loose into the slot. Sean Couturier played too close to the boards, leaving a high-percentage shot wide open. Anders Lee followed up with a three-on-two breakaway goal, his fourth of the postseason. Then, Alain Vigneault made a questionable call, pulling Carter Hart with 7:39 remaining as Devon Toews scored an empty-net goal.
Feel The Shake (of the Flyers Lineup)
Before game one, I released an article addressing the Philadelphia Flyers need to construct a lineup built for speed and forechecking. Tonight, the fourth-line and third defensive pairing were liabilities. A fourth line consisting of Derek Grant, Nate Thompson, and Tyler Pitlick cannot compete against the New York Islanders. It is time to experiment with a return of James van Riemsdyk and the playoff debut of Morgan Frost. On the third defensive pairing, Robert Hagg is a must.
Lack of Offensive Productivity
Eleven goals in the last seven playoff games headline the offensive output from the Philadelphia Flyers. Throughout the postseason, the Flyers are at a minus-six goal differential. The team that showed up during the round-robin has disappeared. It is a matter of returning to the lineups that made this team the hottest franchise in the league in 2019-2020. Claude Giroux needs to be back on the first line with Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier. That combination will shut likely slow down the New York Islanders in game two.
Carter Hart has been mostly outstanding the postseason, but fatigue will be a factor soon enough. Alain Vigneault should think about giving Brian Elliott his first start against the New York Islanders in game two. His splits against the Islanders in 2019-2020 have been superior to Hart, making him a formidable replacement for this series. In two games against New York in 2019-2020, Hart has allowed eight goals (not counting the empty-net.) Elliott, in three games, has allowed seven goals.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre