On Saturday afternoon, Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz said that a hero would emerge in game seven against the Flyers and he was right…sort of.
There were two that stood out but there were also many others as part of as total of a team effort as you could ask for.
Thomas Greiss got the nod over Semyon Varlamov between the pipes and made 16 saves while defenseman Scott Mayfield scored the game winner in the first period as the Islanders blanked the Flyers 4-0 Saturday night in game 7 and they advance to the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning starting on Monday night with game one in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).
Islanders/Flyers Series Schedule:
Game 1: Monday August 24th…Islanders 4 Flyers 0 (Islanders lead 1-0)
Game 2: Wednesday August 26th…Flyers 4 Islanders 3 F/OT (Series Tied 1-1)
Game 3: Saturday August 29th…Islanders 3 Flyers 1 (Islanders lead 2-1)
Game 4: Sunday August 30th…Islanders 3 Flyers 2 (Islanders lead 3-1)
Game 5: Tuesday September 1st…Flyers 4 Islanders 3 F/OT (Islanders lead 3-2)
Game 6: Thursday September 3rd…Flyers 5 Islanders 4 F/2OT (Series Tied 3-3)
Game 7: Saturday September 5th…Islanders 4 Flyers 0 (Islanders win series 4-3)
For Mayfield, scoring the first goal of the game was huge after his broken stick led to the Flyers’ game winning goal in double overtime of game six.
“I was kind of down the past couple of days after breaking my stick there in overtime,” said Mayfield who tallied his first career playoff goal. “It’s a confidence boost. A game winner in game seven to go on to the Eastern Conference Final. I don’t think anyone would think I’d be scoring it but I had a lane and just happy I could put it away.”
And later in the first period, defenseman Andy Greene made it 2-0 with his second goal of the playoffs. He went to a Stanley Cup Final with the Devils, but he’s having fun during this Islanders run that has taken them to within eight wins of bringing Lord Stanley to Long Island.
“We’re excited,” said Greene. “We’ve earned it. (We’ll) enjoy it for an hour or two here tonight and we’re back at it Monday.”
Greiss, who backstopped the Islanders to the second round of the playoffs back in 2016, didn’t have to do much in his second start and win of the series. He found out on Friday night that he would get the start and he did make several big saves and was the recipient of a great team defensive effort in front of him.
“I think it was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen a team play,” said Greiss. “They took most of the stuff away and (I’m) just happy we got the win.”
And with that win, the Islanders are in a conference final for the first time since 1993 when David Volek’s overtime goal in game seven of the Patrick Division Finals gave the Islanders a 4-3 victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh to advance to the Wales Conference Final against Montreal.
The Islanders are halfway (well three fifths of the way if you count the qualifying round win over Florida) to their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup, but there is certainly reason to enjoy this victory for a day or so before meeting up with Tampa Bay.
Trotz did lead the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup in 2018, but for the Islanders, it’s been a 27 year wait to get to this point of the postseason.
“You have to celebrate the moments because those moments don’t come by very much,” said Trotz. “I don’t mean go crazy or anything but I think you recognize and understand you took another step and there’s a little bit of a celebration. I look at it as we won three playoff rounds and we’re gonna play a very good Tampa team and they’re very focused and deep. We’re going to have to come up with a way to try to get by them and I think our team is up for the challenge because our team has grown.”
The victory over the Flyers was the Islanders’ first game seven since a 2-1 loss to Trotz and the Capitals back in 2015. Brock Nelson was a part of that Islanders team and he’s been through plenty of ups and downs while seeing and hearing a lot about the glory years during his seven seasons with the team
“It’s special because the end goal is still out there,” said Nelson who extended the Islanders lead to 3-0 in the second period with his 7th goal of the playoffs.
“This is obviously a big day and a big win for us. The fan base is passionate and always talks about the wins back in the 80’s and the teams and the guys that have won the cups there and you can just see how much that means to them and the community. Those guys are heroes and everybody in the room now is trying to be part of some history like that and write our own little chapter.”
Anthony Beauvillier capped the scoring with an empty netter in the third period, his team leading 8th goal of the playoffs. Josh Bailey dished out two assists and now has 15 to go along with two goals for 17 points in 16 playoff games this season.
When it comes to the story of the 2020 Islanders, the final chapter hasn’t been written just yet with perhaps two more still to come. But after getting through the Panthers, Capitals and Flyers, the chapter entitled “Party Like It’s 1993” can now be added to the book.
The next chapter will be about whether or not the Islanders can get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1984.