Disregard the number one seed for a moment. There is a misconception about seeding, especially during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. That misconception is that the top seed is the best team. Generally, it is easy to believe that, but more often, that never proves to be true. The Philadelphia Flyers landed the first seed in the round-robin, which did not represent the regular season.
I’ll do you one better. The New York Islanders have been the favorites before the first period of the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Until the Philadelphia Flyers overtime win in game two, name another time the Flyers defeated the Islanders in 2019-2020. You cannot because they have not. As frustrating as this series has been for Philadelphia, it is not far off from a realistic prediction.
Sunday night, the Philadelphia Flyers had an opportunity to even the series, 2-2. Brian Elliott earned his first start since the round-robin and did not disappoint. The final score, 3-1, does not tell that story. Elliott did not give away rebounds and second chances when he made saves. Unfortunately, the defense collapsed around Elliott all night long.
Game 4 Recap
My brand did not thrive in game four. Philippe Myers failed clearing pass to Scott Laughton resulted in Brock Nelson’s first of two goals. Travis Sanheim was put into a lose-lose situation in front of Brian Elliott while Nelson ripped a high percentage shot on Elliott’s stick side. Later in the same period, Sean Couturier deflected Justin Braun’s shot for a score. The game was tied going into the final period of regulation.
Odd-man rush situations have treated the New York Islanders well against the Philadelphia Flyers. In nearly every game during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Islanders have had a game-breaking goal off of an odd-man rush opportunity. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s in game four starts when Matt Niskanen decides to stop skating and play the body while the puck is on the opposite side of the ice. Pageau burned by Niskanen and scored a three-on-two goal as Ivan Provorov was stranded. Brian Elliott nearly made the save, but the puck trickled in.
Another odd-man rush provided Brock Nelson with the game-winning goal. The Philadelphia Flyers have been puck watching all series long. This time, Travis Konecny was guilty, and Ivan Provorov was alone between Nelson and Josh Bailey. Before the end of the third period, Provorov did score a slapshot goal from the blue line. If the Flyers just kept skating to eliminate odd-man rushes, they may have tied the series, 2-2, after four games.
Game 5 Storylines
Tonight begins the last stand for the Philadelphia Flyers. In playoff series’ where they have trailed 3-1, they are 1-17. That loosely translates to a 5% chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. We have all witnessed this happen once before. They need to embrace the spirit of the franchise in 2010.
Before game four, one player who can light the Philadelphia Flyers world on fire dressed. Seeing Oskar Lindblom skate gave me goosebumps. While he did not play in game four, Lindblom has been training to play and contribute to the Flyers postseason since finishing his Ewing’s Sarcoma treatments. It is likely that if Philadelphia were to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, Lindblom probably would return to the lineup. I would not put it past Alain Vigneault to consider Lindblom for game five against the New York Islanders with championship aspirations on the line.
“Oskar is doing everything to help us.”Alain Vigneault; 8/30/2020
Cryptic, but that is how Alain Vigneault plays the game. Coaches have not been able to speak about the condition of players inside the bubble, but Vigneault likely would not confirm a lineup change in a press conference. An addition such as Oskar Lindblom should be as protected as naming a starting goaltender. I would argue that it would be even more protected than listing a starting goaltender in game five. With the series on the line, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to do battle with Carter Hart.
The name of the game against the New York Islanders is defensive positioning and forechecking. As I noted earlier, poor defensive positioning that leads to an odd-man rush from the Islanders is what kills the Philadelphia Flyers in every game. Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov need to have the microscope focused on them. They account for an underachieving defensive top pairing and an even more unthreatening powerplay unit. Provorov did score on Thomas Greiss in game four, but Semyon Varlamov is a different case.
Sean Couturier has been catching fire recently, but he alone has not been enough. The burning question is, “what happened to Claude Giroux?” He has yet to find the back of the net once in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. That has to end tonight. Keep an eye out for Travis Konecny, especially if Alain Vigneault decides to run with Oskar Lindblom in the lineup.
It would be unlike the Philadelphia Flyers to go down without a fight in their final hour of the 2019-2020 season. The Flyers’ body of work in the postseason has been lackluster in comparison to the regular season. If Philadelphia continues to depend on goaltending to keep them in the playoffs, then they will be finished in five games against the New York Islanders. The scoring chances in game four were there, and the Flyers could have won that game. If Philadelphia still thrives under the underdog mantra, that identity will be put to the test tonight.
Mandatory Credit – John McCreary/Icon Sportswire
Eric is a University of Delaware graduate with a degree in English. While in school, he began writing for different publications such as The Highlight Network, Amps and Greenscreens, and he did color commentary for the University of Delaware Men’s and Women’s lacrosse teams throughout the 2013 season as an alumni. Prior to being featured with Philly Sports Network, he began a pro-wrestling podcast with a childhood friend called the Totally Over Podcast. As an avid sports die-hard for all things Philadelphia, Eric is also a proud supporter of West Virginia University.