Philly comes into this game as slight favorites with the over/under set at five
The second game of the playoff series between the Islanders and Flyers will be played today in Toronto, Canada. The Flyers were shellacked in the first game of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. On one side, you have the number one seed in the East looking to bounce back in game two. Meanwhile, on the other side, you have the Islanders who are looking to build on an extremely important game one win. It’s going to be very intriguing to see which team comes out more motivated.
The Isles played a perfect game the other day in the first matchup of the series with Philly. New York took an early 1-0 lead in the first period, which allowed the team to dictate the pace of play for the remaining 50 minutes of gameplay. As a result, the Islanders were able to hold the Flyers to zero goals on 29 shot attempts. We should not be surprised by NY’s defensive prowess. The Isles have proven that they have one of the best defensive teams in the 2019-20 postseason. What came as more of a surprise was the Isles’ explosion of scoring. New York was able to make Philadelphia’s young, hotshot goalie, Carter Hart, look silly, scoring three goals on 28 shot attempts against the 22-year-old net-minder. The Isles were able to top off their effort with an empty-net goal, giving them the eventual 4-0 win and an early 1-0 lead in the series. Now, New York finds itself just three wins away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
Goaltending will be the difference between the winner and loser in this series. I do not want to take anything away from Philadelphia’s Carter Hart. The kid has been sensational since joining the league. Hart finished the regular season with the eighth-best goals allowed average in the NHL (2.42 GAA). That number has been even better since the postseason began. Hart has only allowed 1.86 goals per game in nine total contests. Carter Hart is an excellent goalie with a tonne of upside, and Philadelphia has found its franchise goaltender for the next ten years. My concern is that Hart’s inexperience will be exposed by a well-coached team like it was in game one. Trotz’s men were able to get three pucks past Hart, which may have shaken the young man’s confidence. I think Carter Hart’s time to shine will eventually come, but not now. Not when is a 22-years-old playing on a team that needed a little luck to eventually be crowned the top team in the East.
The Islanders do not have the same problem as the Flyers. You could make the case that New York’s goaltending has only gotten better as the postseason has gone on. In fact, Goalie Semyon Varlamov was able to accomplish something the other day that had never been done in franchise history. Varlamov posted a shutout in Game One, meaning that he became the first player in Isles’ history to record back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs. This is quite an amazing feat when you realize that this was never accomplished by Hall of Fame Goalie Billy Smith, who won four Stanley Cups for the Isles in the 80s. I mean Varlamov is playing like the best goalie in the NHL right now. He has allowed the fewest goals per game in the postseason and is tied with Joonas Korpisalo for best save percentage by a starting goalie in the 2019-20 postseason. Semyon Varlamov has been the catalyst for the Isles’ impressive playoff run.
I think that the Isles should be favored in this series. They have playoff experience, and it shows. The Isles have already improved on their postseason run from last year, posting an 8-2 record through ten games in 2019-20. Also, Barry Trotz is an excellent leader. He proved it when his team upset the Capitals in the previous round, and he is proving it again against the Flyers. The statistics clearly favor the Islanders at this moment. New York is averaging the third-most goals per game of all teams left in the playoffs (3.40 GF/G). As for the Flyers, they average the fewest goals scored per game of all remaining playoff teams. Since the goaltending for both teams is so close (1.50 GA/G for NYI, 2.00 GA/G for PHI), I am picking the Islanders to eventually go on to win the series because they have the advantage on offense at this moment in time.
Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. As pro athletes love to say, “take things one game at a time.” With puck drop set for 3:00 PM EST, I like the Islanders to win game two. The Flyers are a young team with a new Head Coach and a young goalie in just his second season. I think they impressed everybody in the qualifying round and exceeded expectations, but I think the Islanders are going to continue to expose the Flyers since both teams play such similar, defensive styles. Simply put, Philly hasn’t shown they have the scoring capabilities to keep up with the Islanders. I don’t think the Flyers get blanked in this game, but I do think they lose without hitting the over. Give me the Isles in game two.