A lot has changed since the NHL’s regular season was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Take the Islanders for example.
They lost their final seven regular season games before the pause came, but since the restart in Toronto they’ve caught fire beating the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Monday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, they begin round two of the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that won nine of their last ten games before the pause and secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference with a perfect 3-0 round robin record.
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 swept all three regular season games against the Flyers, but given the circumstances those contests took place in an alternate universe.
“Obviously (the Flyers are) a team that’s playing really good hockey right now, earned that number one spot and had a pretty good series (against Montreal),” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “Another tough matchup for us and another tough task at hand. We’ll be able to look back at them a little bit but it was a long time ago. It’s in the past and I think both teams are in different places in their play. Obviously, this situation is completely different. We can look at it for tendencies but I don’t think we can look too much into how the turnout was and take it from there.”
Islanders vs Flyers Regular Season Series:
October 27th Islanders 5 Flyers 3 at Nassau Coliseum
November 16th Islanders 4 Flyers 3 (shootout) at Wells Fargo Center
February 11th Islanders 5 Flyers 3 at Barclays Center
Two of the Islanders’ three victories over the Flyers occurred during the Isles’ 17 game point streak while the Flyers only lost three of their last fifteen regular season games and one of them was against the Islanders. Both teams have played well in the bubble so the expectation is that this should be a close and entertaining series. It’s been so long since they last met so the three regular season meetings won’t carry much weight in the series.
In reality, they don’t really mean much at all at this point.
“It has no bearing on where we are right now,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “It seems like it’s been years ago since we played them. It just feels like forever so I don’t think it has any bearing at all. I think there’s two pretty good teams that are going to square off. What you’re doing now really matters. What you did before has zero bearing on the affect of these games I think.”
It’s been a long time since the Islanders and Flyers squared off against each other. It’s been even longer since the two divisional rivals met each other in the playoffs and that was 33 years ago when the Flyers beat the Isles in a seven game Patrick Division Final. The Flyers have kept the magic that they had at the end of the regular season alive in the bubble while the Islanders have recaptured their identity that they had early in the season but lost once the injuries starting mounting in early January.
But what happened earlier this season seems like ancient history right about now. The Islanders and Flyers are rolling in the bubble as they battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference Final.