Against the ropes, a fighter creates an opportunity after landing a body blow to create distance. Game five featured the Philadelphia Flyers with their backs against the proverbial ropes. When Ivan Provorov placed his shot on the net, Scott Laughton delivered the blow to keep the Flyers in the battle. Tonight, Philadelphia has the opportunity to come out of its corner and clear the series slate. The Flyers own a winning percentage above 50% when a playoff series reaches game seven, but need to survive tonight first.
Throughout the regular season and postseason, the New York Islanders have dictated the pace against the Philadelphia Flyers. Three times now, the Islanders have forced the Flyers into overtime. Alain Vigneault called upon his players to find their “big boy pants.” Hopefully, Philadelphia finished drying their laundry and plan on wearing those exact pants tonight. Barry Trotz and his players took a day off to recharge before tonight’s game six.
Game 6 Storylines
New York Islanders leading scorer, Mathew Barzal, left game five after taking a stick to the face. Claude Giroux did not receive a penalty for the errant high-stick that struck Barzal. Barry Trotz believes Barzal is trending in the right direction to take the ice tonight. Barzal missed the overtime period after being hit with Giroux’s follow-through. His absence did not shortchange the Islanders’ offensive output as New York scored two more goals in regulation.
Frank J. Selke Trophy finalist, Sean Couturier, is listed as questionable for game six. He collided with Mathew Barzal with a couple of minutes remaining in the second period. Couturier is under evaluation leading up to tonight’s contest. The Philadelphia Flyers missing Couturier may be a bigger hit to the lineup than Barzal missing from the New York Islanders. While Barzal has performed better than Couturier in the postseason, “Coots” has been a catalyst in the lukewarm Flyers lineup.
Similar to game five, the Philadelphia Flyers are on the brink of elimination. That is how it will be for the rest of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This time around, the Flyers have a little bit of momentum after the overtime win. Philadelphia has yet to win back-to-back against the New York Islanders this postseason. To survive this playoff series, they’ll have to string three wins together against the Islanders.
If Sean Couturier cannot play tonight, expect Scott Laughton or Claude Giroux to assume the role of the first-line center. When Couturier left game five, Laughton replaced him to deflect the game-winner by Semyon Varlamov. Other possibilities are Morgan Frost and Connor Bunnaman, but Michael Raffl seems the most likely replacement. Couturier could muscle through the knee injury he suffered in game five. He scored three goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins two seasons ago on a torn MCL.
Defensively, the Philadelphia Flyers need to win in the neutral zone. In the past two games, the New York Islanders have decimated the Flyers defense with odd-man rushes. Philadelphia needs to continue to skate, and cannot get caught puck watching. Matt Niskanen rebounded from an awful game four in game five. Tonight, I look to Travis Sanheim to provide an offensive boost from the blue line.
Two days ago, Alain Vigneault stated that he believes Oskar Lindblom is still a couple of days away. Tonight is a couple of days later, so again, I do not count Lindblom out of the Philadelphia Flyers plans. He always provides a spark to the Flyers locker room, and the remaining games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals serve as a perfect time for Lindblom to make his postseason debut in 2020.
The Philadelphia Flyers have yet to secure a defining win against the New York Islanders throughout this 2019-2020 campaign. Playing with nothing to lose is an advantage in any sport. Right now, the Flyers are in the postseason to play spoiler to the Islanders. In a way, that makes Philadelphia just as dangerous as the Islanders. If the Flyers win game six, the debt wipes away to zero.
Mandatory Credit – John McCreary/Icon Sportswire