The Isles Are Slightly Favored in Today’s Game With the Total Set at 5.5
That was quite a response from the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2. Philly was able to mount an early 3-0 lead in the first period. However, the Isles managed to come storming back and ended up tying the game with a little over two minutes left in regulation. It seemed like the Islanders were going to complete the comeback, but it was not meant to be. New York came up a little short in overtime as the Flyers would win the game thanks to a goal from Philippe Myers. The series is now tied 1-1, and tonight’s matchup will play a big role in determining who will end up moving on in the playoffs.
The Isles now have an important question glaring them in the face following yesterday’s tough loss: who should start in goalie? Before yesterday’s game, this question was a no-brainer. Semyon Varlamov has played like one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this postseason. In fact, Varlamov has the best Goals Allowed Average of any player that has participated in more than three games so far this postseason. Furthermore, his save percentage is second out of all players remaining in the postseason behind only Carter Hart. Varlamov looked to be the guy for the Isles, but Barry Trotz had to make a drastic decision yesterday and switch to Thomas Greiss after Varlamov surrendered three goals in the first period.
Now, the Isles have to decide if they want Greiss to go out there or Varlamov. Greiss was excellent filling in for Varlamov yesterday, registering 20 saves on 21 shot attempts. At this time, Coach Trotz has not made any indication as to who will get the start between the pipes. The coach spoke highly of Thomas Greiss, saying “I thought he was solid. He made a couple of key saves. He looked very comfortable, which is a great sign. That’s a positive for his attitude and his work ethic for our goaltending department. You have to be ready in the playoffs, and he was definitely ready…” Trotz is not going to reveal what his plan is, but I would not be surprised to see Varlamov back in goal for game three. Varlamov has been the guy that got you there with an 8-2 record in 11 games. You cannot abandon your franchise goalie for having one bad period against the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. I imagine Varlamov will get the nod from Trotz, but he will have a short leash to work with. If he lets in a few goals early, I expect Greiss to come in.
It’s easy to focus on the Islanders following yesterday’s game because the team was able to make things interesting late. However, I feel that we are not highlighting/complimenting the amazing job being done by Philly coach Alain Vigneault. In just his first season with the team, the Flyers have already reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs and won a postseason series. This is even more impressive once you realize that the Flyers’ leading scorer only recorded 24 goals this season. Philly is playing tough, grind-it-out hockey, just like the Islanders. As a result, they have the third-best scoring defense of all teams that reached the postseason and find themselves three wins away from a birth in the Eastern Conference finals.
For the Flyers, the real issue is that they play a similar style to the Islanders. Both teams like to play physical and rely on strong defense as well as good goaltending. In fact, these two teams are ranked first and second in goaltending out of all teams remaining in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Isles are just a little bit better than the Flyers at executing their gameplan. New York scores more and allows fewer goals than Philly. I think the Flyers will take this series to seven games, but I think the experience and the execution by the Isles will eventually lead New York to the series victory.
Now we look ahead to tonight’s matchup. The Flyers are looking to keep the momentum up as they try to win their second straight game. However, the Isles have been a thorn in Philly’s side the whole series, never allowing the Flyers to truly get comfortable or execute their gameplan. Furthermore, I think Varlamov is going to go out there tonight with a chip on his shoulder as he has something to prove following yesterday’s game when he was pulled from the ice. I think the Isles win a close game without hitting the over or the under.