Pressure is a fickle concept. It can change at the snap of a finger. What comes from pressure is either a monumental breakdown or a diamond. There are two sides to this series between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders. The Flyers are attempting to make this series into their diamond, while the Islanders are on the brink of catastrophe.
All-time, the Philadelphia Flyers own a 56% (9-7) winning percentage in a playoff game seven. Against the New York Islanders, the Flyers are undefeated in a game seven. When facing elimination, Philadelphia possesses a 47% (32-35) winning percentage. That has only improved against the Islanders in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Flyers defeat New York tonight, it would not be the first time Alain Vigneault has navigated his team back from 3-1 to win a playoff series.
Game 7 Storylines
Barry Trotz has quite the decision to make. Semyon Varlamov has been a tough goaltender in the first half of this series, but Thomas Greiss has made a case for himself. The Philadelphia Flyers scored on Greiss to win game two, but that was after Varlamov allowed three goals. In Greiss’ only start, he earned a game four victory against Brian Elliott. Greiss has only allowed three total goals against the Flyers, while Varlamov has allowed nine in the last two games.
Through the series, Barry Trotz has strategized a bit better than Alain Vigneault. The Philadelphia Flyers have stolen three victories in overtime this series. Game six likely would not have gone to overtime if Vigneault did not make a bad challenge on Matt Martin’s goal. History does have a way of repeating itself. In 2015, Trotz lost a game seven to Vigneault’s New York Rangers after leading that series 3-1.
A gutsy performance rewarded the Philadelphia Flyers with a double-overtime game six victory. Without Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee, the Flyers fed off of the energy from the return of Oskar Lindblom. Farabee and Couturier are questionable for game seven. Alain Vigneault optimized his lineup on Thursday. If Couturier or Farabee is in the lineup, I do not suspect Lindblom will be removed.
Speaking of Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee potentially missing game seven, Kevin Hayes and Scott Laughton were incredible. Both were on the ice for about a half-hour. Hayes made the most of his night, tallying a goal and an assist. Michael Raffl has been consistent throughout the postseason for the Philadelphia Flyers. He maintained a plus-three with a goal in twenty minutes of play.
Over the last couple of games, the Philadelphia Flyers’ first defensive pairing has been in redemption mode. Matt Niskanen was on the ice for 37 minutes and had a plus-three rating. Ivan Provorov skated for 38 minutes, registering an assist and the game-winning goal in double overtime. Tonight, we’ll look for that kind of output to continue, but with a rare powerplay goal.
Carter Hart will be the center of attention between the pipes. After the last two games went into overtime, including a double-overtime game six, Hart has freakishly shown limited fatigue. On Thursday, Hart made a career-high in saves (49 of 53) for a 92.5% save percentage. Tonight is his first game seven, including his WHL career.
Every Philadelphia Flyers mantra from the regular season takes on a new feel in a deciding game seven. Against the New York Islanders tonight, it is “Now or Never.” The tides have turned, and I believe the Islanders have more pressure on their shoulders than the Flyers. Philadelphia will not surrender in the final hour. The Flyers meant it when they threw down the gauntlet. “Anytime. Anywhere.”