The first two games of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series between the Philadelphia Flyers and their Metropolitan Division rival New York Islanders were unpredictable. The Isles have solid depth throughout their lineup, and that continued to show from their previous series versus the Washington Capitals. The Flyers had their hands full in both games, but were able to claim victory in Game 2 thanks to an overtime tally by defenseman Philippe Myers.
With the postseason series tied at one game apiece, Game 3 became that much more crucial for both clubs. The squads fought hard for the win, but the Isles took this one by a final score of 3-1. There were a few players that made their presence known on both sides of the ice.
When I have thought about the Islanders throughout the 2020 playoffs, one of the first players who comes to mind is forward Anthony Beauvillier. He has been one of the more lethal talents throughout this postseason for New York. In the previous 11 playoff games this year, he notched seven goals (statistical leader in that category on the team) and three assists for 10 points. He is only behind forward Josh Bailey in the point category for the Isles.
Beauvillier also has a physical mindset. He is not afraid to get rough, and crash the net or get in the face of his opponents. That type of style can really set the tone in games, and can be a big confidence booster for the rest of a player’s teammates.
Game 3 against Philly was no different. Beauvillier was aggressive on the forecheck throughout the night, giving no space whatsoever and hindering whichever Flyer player held the puck. He also had a few chances to score as well, including a 2-on-1 he was a part of during the second period.
Mat Barzal is another player who had quite a few chances to really make the Flyers pay dearly in the contest. Philadelphia defensemen did a pretty good job right away in the game making sure to provide pressure, and not give Barzal too much of an opportunity to burn them. His speed has always been dangerous though, and there were flashes of why throughout Game 3.
There were a couple of chances that Barzal had in the second period that stood out to me. One of them was a wraparound that he just was not able to tuck away. Whenever he is not burning other teams by scoring, he still creates scoring opportunities for his teammates. That could not be more proven than when Flyers were focused on Barzal, and he set up Matt Martin for a goal to tie Game 3 at 1-1 in the second period.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov has been stellar throughout this entire round so far, and he continued to show how he can be a good backbone in between the pipes in this matchup specifically. He stopped 26 out of 27 shots in Game 3, and had a .963 save percentage (SV%). Other Islander goals came from Leo Komarov and captain Anders Lee to clinch the victory.
The Flyers have had pretty good contributions from their bottom-six players throughout their postseason run. Game 3 continued that trend, and the players did it in right in the first period. Winger Tyler Pitlick scored his second goal of the playoffs, with linemate James van Riemsdyk in front of Varlamov. This made the score 1-0 Philadelphia.
Scott Laughton also played a significant role on that line, picking up an assist on that goal. He made his return to the lineup after missing Game 2, replacing Michael Raffl. There was a jump in his step during this game. He knew he had to improve his play, as it had trailed off a bit after a stellar display during the round-robin tournament.
As always, Flyers goaltender Carter Hart did what he could to keep the Orange and Black in this contest. He did let in a couple of questionable goals, but he continues to be a young leader for the club. He saved 26 shots and posted a .897 SV%.
While Hart might have wanted those goals back, the offense needed to step up to another level, and they could not finish the job. Players like captain Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek among others failed to put up any points in the game. These are the go-to talents when it comes to getting an offensive spark.
Both teams will be able to respond quickly to what occurred as Game 4 is on Sunday. Head coaches Alain Vigneault (Flyers) and Barry Trotz (Islanders) will make necessary adjustments, and we’ll see what is in store for the series going forward.