The following quote from Flyers’ d-man Ivan Provorov is very telling.
“It’s not over until it’s over. We have a great team. We know how to battle with adversity. We’re going to come out with the same energy tomorrow.”Ivan Provorov; 8/31/2020
The Philadelphia Flyers entered game five on the brink of elimination. Again, overtime was required to earn a victory. High energy and true grit powered Philadelphia. As the underdog in their final hour, they live to see another day.
What does not change about game six is the danger the Philadelphia Flyers face. With the series close, 3-2, the Flyers are still the only team on the brink of elimination. They’ve placed pressure on the shoulders of the New York Islanders and need to keep the pace. Tonight, the Islanders scored first but did not win. Philadelphia became the first team to defeat New York when trailing 3-1 in a playoff series.
“I think I used the term ‘big boy pants,’ and they played today.”Alain Vigneault; 9/1/2020
Alain Vigneault didn’t pull punches when he asked his locker room to step up. Game five featured appearances from players that had disappeared throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. Claude Giroux found his way, and James van Riemsdyk showed value. Matt Niskanen recovered from a costly game four. Finally, Scott Laughton broke out of his playoff slump.
Throughout the first period, the Philadelphia Flyers could not keep out of the penalty box. Against an already high octane offense, playing hockey a man down doesn’t help. The Flyers dominated the shot count in the first period, but the quality of shots was in favor of the New York Islanders. As the first period finished, the Islanders remained on the powerplay. It haunted Philadelphia in the second period.
Controversy suffocated the first New York Islanders goal as Josh Bailey put his team up, 1-0. Tyler Pitlick collided into the net, blocking Carter Hart away from where the offensive play was taking place. Matthew Barzal didn’t necessarily show urgency in removing himself from the crease, allowing for Bailey to score a cheap goal. Alain Vigneault challenged the goal but lost. The Islanders went back on the powerplay as Nicolas Aube-Kubel served the delay of game penalty.
A lot of hockey was left, and the Philadelphia Flyers did not panic. Claude Giroux broke his playoff scoring drought, scoring his first goal since March 2020. The game was tied, 1-1, before James van Riemsdyk earned his first goal of the postseason. His scoring drought dated back to February 2020, a month before Giroux’s last goal. All of a sudden, the Flyers had the lead and momentum.
After finishing the second period on a high note, the Philadelphia Flyers continued to soar. Matt Niskanen, who was a defensive liability in game four, scored a vital insurance goal to put the Flyers up two. All Philadelphia needed to do was not allow the New York Islanders back into the game. The Flyers remembered just how hard that was after Brock Nelson and Derick Brassard tied the game with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. For the third time in 2019-2020, the second time in the postseason, the Islanders forced Philadelphia into overtime.
Flyers head to Overtime
At this stage in the game, the New York Islanders were on a tear. They led in shots on goal while holding all the momentum. They could taste the Eastern Conference Finals. Ivan Provorov shot on the net, and Scott Laughton knew what to do. Just like game two, the Philadelphia Flyers won off a deflection goal of sorts in overtime, 4-3.
First Time, Long Time
All but one Philadelphia Flyers goal scorer tonight notched their first postseason goal in 2020. The outlier is Scott Laughton, who scored the game-winner in overtime. Claude Giroux and Matt Niskanen have not scored since March 2020. James van Riemsdyk’s scoring drought was longer, dating back to February 2020. Coincidentally, the last goals for Giroux, Niskanen, and van Riemsdyk were all against teams from New York (Rangers and Buffalo Sabres).
The Philadelphia Flyers have found a plan that works against Semyon Varlamov. Screen and shoot from the blue line. It is how Philippe Myers scored his game-winner in game two, and it’s how half of the goals converted tonight. Claude Giroux deflected one from Myers, and Scott Laughton’s game-winner was a deflection from Ivan Provorov. The difference between Laughton’s game-winner and Myers’ is the deflection was off a New York Islander stick in game two.
The Flyers Love Overtime Hockey
Every time the Philadelphia Flyers enter overtime, I purposely tweet “I love overtime hockey.” It’s a mood for 2019-2020. The Flyers are a team that has been molded by thriving in overtime. It is not a coincidence that Philadelphia has only defeated the New York Islanders in overtime. Of all the teams in the NHL, the Flyers are one of the most dangerous with extra time.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre