There is no clear favorite for today’s matchup between Philly and New York
The Philadelphia Flyers enter today’s game on the brink of elimination after emerging from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. This team is reminiscent of the Flyers’ squad from the 2010-11 season. That group finished second in the East when the regular-season was over. However, they eventually fell to the Boston Bruins in four games in the Conference Semi-Finals. It is quite possible that Philly may see the same results following the conclusion of tonight’s game.
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders are on the verge of making team history. With a win today, the Isles will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the 1992-93 season. If the Islanders win, they will end the league’s longest conference finals drought. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have a longer drought, and that franchise didn’t begin playing until 2000. I am sure Islanders fans are nervous because they have been scorned before, but I have confidence in Barry Trotz and his guys.
Sure, the Isles are a good team, but I want to discuss the lack of production on the Flyers’ side. I will sing the praises of one individual suiting up for Philly: Kevin Hayes. The 28-year-old Center has 10 points in 13 postseason games. He has definitely shown up in the postseason. Beyond Hayes though, Philly’s top line guys have been incredibly ineffective. Travis Konecny, who led Philadelphia in goals during the regular season, has registered zero goals in the postseason. He’s not alone either. Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk have accounted for zero goals in 22 combined postseason games. Sean Couturier has been decent in the playoffs, recording two goals in 13 games, but that simply isn’t good enough in the postseason when the rest of your team is struggling. I think the Flyers have a bright future, especially with the Carter Hart-Alain Vigneault combination, but Philly’s lack of offense has been exposed by the Islanders. I expect it to be the cause of the Flyers’ downfall in tonight’s game.
We also need to talk about the goaltending performances by the Islanders. Finding a reliable goalie to start in the postseason is hard enough, but the Isles have somehow managed to find two net-minders that have stepped their game up in the playoffs. Let’s take a minute to applaud Thomas Greiss, who made his first start in nearly six months the other day. Greiss would go on to stop 34 of 36 shots on goal in Game Four, leading the Isles to the eventual 3-2 victory. It’s a classic “pick your poison” situation. Whether the Isles start Varlamov or Greiss, you know you are going to have a tough time getting the puck to find the back of the net.
Normally, I am a person that thinks teams perform best with their backs against the wall. However, that has not been the case for the Flyers at all in this series. After winning Game Two, Philly dug itself in a hole by dropping the next two games. Now, the Flyers face elimination, and I don’t know if they have the will or firepower to avoid an early exit.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I am picking the Islanders to win Game Five. Even if Philly manages to win the game though, I still think New York moves on to the next round. Philadelphia has been outmatched the whole series. The goal differential clearly indicates that. In four games, the Islanders have managed to outscore the Flyers 14-6. For years, Islanders fans would say, “if we could just get some offense, this team could be dangerous.” Well, take a good look Islanders fans. Your team found and offense and is now just 60 minutes away from advancing to the team’s first conference finals appearance in almost 30 years. I think New York closes out the series in classic Islanders-fashion.