Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs New York Islanders

Following a miserable March, the Philadelphia Flyers must bounce back against a tough New York Islanders team.

In the 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Flyers’ coach Alain Vigneault took to the ice with a weak lineup. Tonight, it’ll improve in comparison.

The Philadelphia Flyers consistently live in must-win scenarios throughout the rest of the season. They’re attempting to avoid sixth place in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division standings, a dangerous position. To avoid potentially falling behind the New York Rangers, the Flyers must overcome the New York Islanders. Thus far, they’re 3-1-1 against the second-ranked opponents.

Following exclusive practices to find his mojo, Carter Hart will start for Philadelphia. He is 2-1-0 this season against the Islanders, which presents a matchup in his favor. Hart has stopped above 90% of the shots against him in one of those games, however.

Tonight, Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick will enter the lineup after sitting out on Wednesday. Lindblom, according to Vigneault, was given a rest as he continues to get his endurance back. Patrick struggled as the Flyers came back to steal an overtime victory over the Sabres on Monday. Employing those two into the lineup will help Joel Farabee, who didn’t produce with Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman last time out. Shayne Gostisbehere, possibly returning to the lineup in place of Erik Gustafsson, would help Samuel Morin.

Aside from the different lineup features Philadelphia may offer, who do they need to focus on when they take on the Islanders?

New York Islanders – Forward Spotlight

Two days ago, the Islanders totaled eight goals against the Washington Capitals. Momentum such as that is dangerous against a porous Flyers defense.

Leo Komarov had a strong outing, notching an assist with a plus-four rating in just under 14:30 of ice time. His top line, featuring Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal, was blazing hot. In all, that first line totaled nine points, including a hat trick from Barzal. None of those scoring plays took place on the powerplay. They’re doing damage in even-strength hockey and transition.

For Philadelphia, that is a nightmare.

None of the players on the first line found the stat sheet when these two teams last played. Instead, Oliver Wahlstrom and Anthony Beauvilier accounted for the goals scored. The Flyers played tight defensively in the overtime loss, which has only happened once since. If Philadelphia buckles down defensively, they give themselves a chance.

Philippe Myers will play a vital role tonight to help the transition between the Islanders first line and the middle six. Physical play along the boards is a must. Most of the damage from the Islanders against the Flyers comes from the wing forwards.

New York Islanders – Defensemen Spotlight

While the Islanders scored eight goals against the Capitals, they allowed four. Philadelphia must find a way to light the lamp after watching how Washington did.

Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy were the standout defensemen for the Islanders in their latest victory. Both occupy the second pairing, but Leddy is on the Islanders’ second powerplay unit. The Flyers penalty kill needs to help Hart. The best way to do that is by staying out of the penalty box. Hopefully, Hart has adjusted his flawed technique.

In three of five contests, Philadelphia has served close to ten penalty minutes against the Islanders.

Once again, praising the Flyers’ efforts against the Islanders in their recent contest, they didn’t allow a powerplay goal. To their credit, Philadelphia only served a total of two penalty minutes. Travis Konecny served for roughing in the middle of the first period. Konecny may sit tonight, and Tanner Laczynski makes his NHL debut.

New York Islanders – Goaltender Spotlight

Goaltender matchups are the law of the land in the NHL. Against the Flyers, Ilya Sorokin has the most success. Overall, against all opponents, Semyon Varlamov has a slight edge.

Tonight, don’t be surprised with Sorokin gets the start. Varlamov did two days ago in a win but surrendered four goals on twenty-two shots.

Philadelphia has one victory against the Islanders this season when Sorokin starts. In a 4-3 overtime victory, Brian Elliott earned the victory. Since January 31st, 2021, Sorokin has had the Flyers number. Hart has two wins versus the Islanders. Both of those victories were head-to-head with Varlamov.

A win tonight for Hart would do wonders for his confidence.

Prediction

Flyers Drop This One

It is a tough sell to say Philadelphia will be victorious. The defense hasn’t instilled any confidence to ward off potent offenses. The Islanders are one of the more complete teams throughout the entire league. Tonight, we’re looking for a valiant effort from the Flyers. From that, we’ll see where the chips fall.

Flyers 2, Islanders 4

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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