This one hurts the soul. A magical feeling captured the hearts of Philadelphia Flyers fans heading into game seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. That was the feeling of hope. Alain Vigneault and company clawed their way back from a 3-1 series deficit to a 3-3 slate. The light was at the end of the tunnel, but the New York Islanders flipped the switch, eliminating the Flyers from the postseason.
Game seven finished the same way that game one did. Defensively, the New York Islanders shut down the Philadelphia Flyers, only allowing sixteen total shots. The Flyers defense could not pick up the pace against a much faster team of forwards. Barry Trotz made the correct decision by starting Thomas Greiss over Semyon Varlamov. Greiss, like Varlamov’s game one, finished the Flyers in a shutout victory.
Believe it or not, the Philadelphia Flyers had the first scoring chance of the game by Claude Giroux. Scott Mayfield converted his scoring opportunity, placing a wrist shot over the stick side of Carter Hart. It felt like the New York Islanders were moving double the speed of the Flyers in the first period. Derick Brassard was uncontested in the defensive zone, so he had all day to serve Andy Greene a goal. Giroux could have played tighter in the passing lane, but Jakub Voracek was just as reactive instead of proactive on that scoring play.
Scoring chances continued through traffic for the New York Islanders. Anthony Beauvillier swatted a rebound that went off the post. Transition hockey was the strength of the Islanders all series long. Claude Giroux had the puck poached from him, which turned into an odd-man rush for New York. Jakub Voracek was late in transition and got torched by Brock Nelson, who scored off a one-timer set by Josh Bailey.
Too many of the New York Islanders shots were uncontested. In comparison, the Philadelphia Flyers had two real scoring chances through the first two periods. With six and a half minutes remaining, the Flyers put on the extra attacker. Anthony Beauvillier scored the empty-net goal from the blue line. Philadelphia would be unable to register another shot on goal for the remainder of the third period.
A Heavy Hart
Imagine being a goaltender that has practically played three games over the last two games. That was Carter Hart’s workload to keep the Philadelphia Flyers eligible for a game seven. Six regulation periods through game five and six could not finish the job. Tack on three more overtime periods between those two games, and we are talking about an exhausted goaltender. The Flyers leaned completely on Hart during game seven because the defensive and offensive output had flatlined.
I’ve been vocal about my predictions of this series in particular. More than a month before the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs started, I had the New York Islanders defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. The Flyers survived through seven games, stealing three from the Islanders. Philadelphia proved that they could beat a team that they hadn’t yet in 2019-2020. Those wins were not convincing, but the Flyers showed character in overtime.
It’s a rough way to end the postseason. Losing in a game seven is always the toughest pill to swallow because you’re at the bitter end. There are silver linings to take away. The Philadelphia Flyers will be a tough team for the better part of the next decade, and we even had the honor of seeing the return of Oskar Lindblom. The expectations of the 2020-2021 season have been officially set.
Mandatory Credit – Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire