When the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers begin their best of seven second round Stanley Cup Playoff Series on Monday night, it will be a matchup of two teams that have some commonality. They both had terrific runs during the regular season but at different ends of the spectrum. The Islanders went on a 17-game point streak early in the campaign while the Flyers finished hot winning 12 of their last 15 contests to conclude the regular season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while the Islanders finished the regular season with seven straight losses, they joined the Flyers in the bubble and recaptured their early season magic beating Florida in the qualifying round and Washington in the traditional first round. Philadelphia earned the number one seed in the Eastern Conference during round robin play and then beat Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs.
Game 1: Monday August 24th…Islanders at Flyers…7pm
Game 2: Wednesday August 26th…Islanders at Flyers…3pm
Game 3: Thursday August 27th…Flyers at Islanders…7pm
Game 4: Saturday August 29th…Flyers at Islanders…Noon
Game 5: Monday August 31st…Islanders at Flyers…TBD (If necessary)
Game 6: Wednesday September 2nd…Flyers at Islanders…TBD (If necessary)
Game 7: Thursday September 3rd…Islanders at Flyers…TBD (If necessary)
The Islanders and Flyers are two good teams that can see each other in the mirror starting at 7pm Monday night at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto
“I think there’s a lot of similarities,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “Each team is not top heavy. They’ve got lots of good pieces. They’ve got some great veterans. They’ve got some good young people that are growing and their goaltending is strong. Both teams have some size so they’re probably built very similar in a lot of ways.”
In the qualifying round, it was Trotz matching wits with Florida’s Joel Quenneville in a matchup of two of the winningest coaches in NHL history. In this round, the Islanders will be facing a coach that they are very familiar with in former Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault who is in his first season behind the Philadelphia bench. Vigneault, who has also been Head Coach of Vancouver and Montreal, has done a masterful job with the Flyers this season. Last season, the Flyers finished with just 82 points and were an NHL .500 team at 37-37-8. Vigneault has helped turn the Flyers into a really good hockey team.
“That’s one of his strengths,” said Islanders forward Derick Brassard who played for Vigneault when he was with the Blueshirts. “Obviously he did the same thing with the Rangers a few years ago. I have nothing but good things to say about AV. He’s a good coach. His team is going to be ready to go.”
With their surge to end the regular season, the Flyers blew past the Islanders in the standings and finished one behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders won all three regular season meetings from the Flyers, but that was so long ago that both teams are in a different world now and not just because they are playing in the bubble in Toronto.
“You can’t take away too much from earlier this season if you beat a team or lost,” said Islanders forward Brock Nelson. “It’s a different time. It’s a unique challenge. Philly is playing well right now so we have to raise our level. We’ve done some good things but we want to keep stepping up and keep improving in different areas of the game.”
Right wing Travis Konecny led the Flyers in scoring during the regular season with 24 goals and 37 assists for 61 points but has just three assists in nine post-season contests. Center Sean Couturier had 59 points during the regular season and has added five assists in the playoffs. Right wing Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in scoring during the postseason with eight points on four goals and four assists, but perhaps the Islanders biggest challenge will be trying to solve Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart.
The second year netminder recorded back to back shutouts in the opening round series against Montreal and has a 1.71 goals against average in the playoffs.
Finding a way to impair Hart’s vision in front of the net is on top or near the top of the Islanders’ to-do list.
“It’s going to be difficult,” said Nelson. “So, we’ll have to approach it with the same mentality of getting some traffic and creating some scrums and second chances and making it tough on him.”
This will be the fifth playoff meeting between the Islanders and Flyers but the first in 33 years. In 1987, the Flyers beat the Islanders in seven games to win the Patrick Division Finals. Philadelphia has won three of the four previous postseason meetings, with the lone Islanders victory coming in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals when Bobby Nystrom scored in overtime of game six at Nassau Coliseum to bring Lord Stanley to Long Island for the first time.
The Islanders certainly have a tough challenge against the Flyers in what could very well be an extremely entertaining, physical and long series.
“Obviously a team that’s playing really good hockey right now,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “(They) earned that number one spot in the play in round and had a pretty good series (against Montreal). Another tough matchup for us. Another tough task at hand.”
A task that begins on Monday night in Toronto.