Spying on the Saboteur: Can the Flyers finally find their feet vs Islanders?


Following an embarrassing loss to the New York Islanders, can the Philadelphia Flyers center themselves on home ice?

March has been a nightmare. The Mass Mutual Eastern Division wasn’t ever for the faint of heart. We all knew that in coming to the 2020-2021 regular season. What we didn’t predict is the Philadelphia Flyers struggling to be a playoff team.

Here we are.

Flyers are slipping out of contention

The Flyers are 3-1-0 against the New York Islanders in 2020-2021. Two of those wins took place in overtime. The other featured a three-goal lead squandered by Philadelphia. Previously, the Islanders destroyed the Flyers, 6-1. Following that loss was a post-game press conference that didn’t inspire hope.

Oskar Lindblom dropped the gloves on Friday. Sean Couturier could return to the lineup tonight. Brian Elliott will start, and Shayne Gostisbehere will replace Nate Prosser.

Something has to give. The Flyers need to play for pride and trade value.

New York Islanders – Forwards Spotlight

Dating back to the 2019-2020 season, Philadelphia was the talk of forward depth discussion. The Islanders are arguably deeper. Michael Dal Colle on the left-wing benefits from defensive pressure by Brock Nelson. As long as the Flyers defense continues to struggle, opposing defensive forwards prevail.

On the Islanders’ first line, Leo Komarov will likely be the first forwards to change. That gives a chance for Dal Colle to collaborate with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. Both found the stat sheet in the first period on Friday. Once Barzal and Eberle change, Nelson and Josh Bailey join Dal Colle. The Islanders’ top-six is mightier than Philadelphia’s defensive efforts.

New York Islanders – Defensemen Spotlight

Scott Mayfield is not on the Islanders’ powerplay unit, but he’s been a problem for the Flyers. His thorn in the side of Philadelphia is in the form of the penalty kill. Mayfield will partner with Adam Pelech on the Islanders’ second penalty kill unit. Both defensemen were solid in their victory on Friday, not allowing a powerplay goal.

Along with shutting down the Flyers’ powerplay, Mayfield finished with a +3 rating. Defensively, Mayfield was the best on the ice. Another player worth a mention is Thomas Hickey. Hickey could post an argument as the best Islanders defenseman on the ice in the 6-1 victory, tallying two assists and a +2 rating. What gives Mayfield the edge is his ability to contribute to special teams.

New York Islanders – Goaltender Spotlight

Currently, I project Semyon Varlamov to take the ice at the Wells Fargo Center. Varlamov is winless against Philadelphia this season. In two starts, he’s lost in overtime and regulation. If he does start, he’ll go head-to-head with Brian Elliott.

It would be a shock to see Ilya Sorokin back up Varlamov. Following a day between games, Sorokin has played well against the Flyers this season. He’s yet to lose in regulation, only surrendering an overtime loss. The Islanders are a team with the luxury of a 1a, 1b rotation in 2020-2021. In playing the matchup, Barry Trotz would be wise to stick with Sorokin.

Flyers vs Islanders prediction

My prediction for tonight’s score will be 4-3. It’s all a matter of who comes out on the winning end. Goaltending has been the dealbreaker when analyzing the Islanders through four games. If Varlamov starts, I believe Philadelphia steals one at home.

Flyers 4, Islanders 3

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre