Following on from one of the worst losses in franchise history, can the Philadelphia Flyers find a sense of success against the New York Islanders?
Losses come in all shapes and sizes. There are heartbreaking ones, like Game Six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Sometimes, it’s a series of games where the opponent is constantly victorious, as the Boston Bruins in 2020-2021. Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers found a different level of low. The New York Rangers outclassed them on the way to a 9-0 victory.
As a leader of men, where do you begin with the locker room? A resonating feeling of embarrassment only scratches the surface. March 17th, 2021, was a culmination of all the ignored issues lingering around Flyers hockey.
Tonight, Philadelphia has the New York Islanders on their schedule. Arguably the best team in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, the Islanders are tied with the Washington Capitals. For the Flyers, this game is about having the fortitude to make something of the roster constructed. Alain Vigneault and Claude Giroux voiced their embarrassment. Philadelphia needs to find the grit and pride the city identifies with before they take to the ice.
New York Islanders – Forward Spotlight
Following a whooping that nearly reached double-digits, it will be tough to settle on one forward from New York. On the second-line, Anthony Beauvillier could be a handful on the left-wing. Top-six left-wings have eaten the Flyers lunch all season long. From Jakub Vrana to Chris Kreider, it’s an ongoing trend. Expect stretch passing from the blue-line to the low slot to be a crucial part of the Islanders gameplan.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, they will continue to be under fire defensively. Travis Sanheim has been atrocious as of late, dating back to the series versus the Capitals. Robert Hagg is on injured reserve following an upper-body injury. An issue throughout the Flyers defensive unit is a lack of consistency. Personnel groups have to mature together to work together, which is not the case in Philadelphia.
New York Islanders – Defenseman Spotlight
In the defensive zone, the Flyers have choked the puck away. Ivan Provorov is guilty of it, but Philippe Myers and Sanheim have been the worst offenders recently. That means New York takeaways will come by the boatload. Keep a watchful eye on the Islanders top-pair, specifically Ryan Pulock. He’ll likely force a terrible read in the transition from Provorov or Sanheim by taking away the passing lanes.
Creating takeaways is not a blazing part of Pulock’s game, but Philadelphia has been sloppy with the puck. Taking away defensive help by closing off Justin Braun or Myers is a sound tactic. Last night, the Rangers created nine scoring plays based on forced turnovers. The Islanders will hope to expose the Flyers the same way.
New York Islanders – Goaltender Spotlight
In 2020-2021, Philadelphia’s undefeated against the Islanders. Carter Hart holds a victory over Semyon Varlamov, and Brian Elliott earned a win versus Ilya Sorokin. All of that seems like it comes from an alternate universe. The Flyers are coming off the heels of a nine-goal roast by a team ranked sixth in the Eastern Division while the Islanders lead the standings.
Hart will start for Philadelphia. The same defense will be in front of him tonight, excluding Hagg; Nate Prosser will take his role. Vigneault wants to allow the defensive unit to redeem itself following a nine-goal thrashing. Across the pond against Hart could be Sorokin. Varlamov started the last time out against Washington in a 3-1 loss.
It’s not encouraging that the same defense starts in front of Hart against the division leaders. Vigneault allowing the defensive unit a chance at redemption is nice, but that needs to change following a nine-goal humiliation. Barry Trotz is too intelligent of a head coach to not capitalize upon the Flyers’ struggles. The lack of change will haunt Vigneault in a city that will not tolerate it. Islanders win, 6-3.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre