10 years have passed since both the Flyers and Islanders have advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. Both fanbases are desperate for hope and success considering the up and down decade both franchises have experienced.
Who may come out on top, however, is largely undecided among experts, even analytically speaking. Coming into the playoffs, the Flyers’ were most certainly the favorites. However, with their first-round struggles against the Canadiens, most playoff model predictions have the Flyers’ with a slight edge, but it hovers around 1-3%. This series is likely to be a close one and potentially a low scoring affair.
Who Are the New York Islanders?
The Islanders surprised the Washington Capitals, beating them in five games and suppressing their offense significantly.
There are some eerie similarities between the Canadiens and the Islanders, which could cause the Flyers some issues. This is primarily because of the Islanders’ defensive system. The Islanders are coached by the best defensive coach in the league, Barry Trotz. Trotz led the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup back in 2018, and then left the franchise to sign with the Islanders afterwords. Trotz’s system is considered easy to play, yet defensively stifling. New York loves to clog up the neutral zone and are exceptionally great at blocking passes.
Forwards and Offense
The biggest difference between the Islanders and the Canadiens is their offensive talent and depth, which is why the could give the Flyers some trouble. The Islanders are led offensively by Matthew Barzal. Barzal, a 2015 first-round pick, is one of the more entertaining players in the league. He loves to hold onto the puck for long periods of time and has immense patience. The Islanders also have power forward Anders Lee. Lee has scored over 20 goals five times in his career and is a special player. He loves to set up in front of the opposing team’s goalie and tip pucks and hammer in rebounds. They also boast clutch playoff scorer Jordan Eberle, and two-way threats Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, and youngster Anthony Beauvillier.
On defense, the Islanders have a combination of puck-movers and shutdown men. On the offensive side, Ryan Pulock, David Toews, and Nick Leddy are all capable of moving the puck up the ice quickly. Pulock has a killer slap shot and quarterbacks the power play frequently for the Isles. On the defensive side, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Andy Greene, and (when healthy) Johnny Boychuck. There are no superstars here, but there is depth and some well-rounded players who are utilized across the board.
In goal, the Isles have two veteran netminders in Semyeon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss. Varlamov has been their starter and has been solid this postseason. The Isles’ defensive system tends to take away high danger scoring chances and make it fairly easy on their goalies.
This is why the Islanders could cause some issues for the Flyers in the second round. The Flyers’ offense struggled at times against the Canadiens and the Islanders are a much more experienced team with an even better defensive system.
How the Flyers Can Be Successful
1) Utilizing speed through the neutral zone. Similar to the Canadiens’ system, one of the best ways to combat the Isle’s defensive prowess is through moving the puck as quickly as possible through the neutral zone. The Flyers are the faster team and can exploit the Islanders’ defensive system in this manner.
2) Offensive creativity. The Flyers’ are the deeper team offensively and have a plethora of offensive weapons and tools. With this much talent up front, the Flyers’ can easily combat line matchups through providing three lines of potential scoring threats who can score in a variety of ways.
3)Activating the defense offensively. The Flyers’ did this well during the round-robin stage and at times against the Canadiens. Provorov, Sanheim, Myers, and Gostisbhere can all jump into the play with ease and add an extra level of attack. The Islanders’ system is set up to take away time and space from attacking forwards primarily. If the Flyers’ can activate their defense with regularity, they will have significantly more space to deal with to create scoring opportunities.
4)Out forechecking the Islanders. New York plays a physical, tenacious brand of hockey. But, so do the Flyers. If the Flyers play a strong puck retrieval game and forecheck as they did throughout the round-robin and regular season, they should overpower the weaker Islanders and create turn-overs.
In summation, this should be a tight series of potential low-scoring games, high physicality, and strong defensive play. The series could easily go either way and is likely a seven-game affair filled with high-stakes drama and long frustrating stretches.
My prediction: Flyers win in 7.