The New York Islanders continue to remain in a great spot as they sit one win away from the Eastern Conference Final. They had a chance to clinch in Game 5 but fell for the second time in the series in overtime after overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period.
This is the first time in their three series that they have dropped more than one game in the 2020 Playoffs. Game 6 will be important for a couple of key players and will answer who head coach Barry Trotz wants to turn to in net with both goaltenders playing well.
As great as Jordan Eberle played in both the qualifying and first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has been struggling in the second round to break through with a goal. To his credit, Eberle has four assists, but the Islanders need their first-line winger to find the back of the net if they are going to move on in the playoffs.
Eberle scored two goals against the Florida Panthers in the Qualifying Round and was one of the best forwards on the ice in Round 1 against the Washington Capitals. However, for a second straight year, Eberle has been unable to score in the second round. He picked up three assists last season in their loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 2, but is still looking for his first goal. The Philadelphia Flyers were finally able to get a goal from Claude Giroux, who had struggled, which turned out to be a significant impact in Philadelphia’s overtime win in Game 5.
Surprisingly, the Islanders have received scoring from all four lines in the playoffs. The only problem is that they will need that big goal from Eberle at some point. Philadelphia has been on an incredible run with one of the top goaltenders in the league in Carter Hart.
Semyon Varlamov has been the most impressive goaltender in the postseason throughout the first two rounds. He has won nine games and has a pair of shutouts in consecutive games. However, Thomas Greiss has shown he is more than able to win in the playoffs and could possibly see time in Game 6.
Varlamov has undoubtedly earned the start, but with two games to play in the series and the heavy workload he has had, it makes for an interesting decision. Greiss came in during Game 2 after the Islanders fell behind 3-0 and shut Philadelphia down until he was eventually beat in overtime. Greiss also proved what he could do in a series and his heroics against the Florida Panthers back in 2016 and then was sharp in Game 4.
A big reason for Varlamov and Greiss’s success has been because of the Islanders’ top defensive pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. They have done a tremendous job of shutting down the Flyers’ top scorers until Game 5, where they were on the ice for Philadelphia’s first two goals.
The goals came from Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk, who both were held scoreless in the series. Alain Vigneault had the last change in Game 5 and was able to put out matchups he liked. However, Trotz will have the last change as the designated home team in Game 6.
If this series continues to follow the same trend, Game 6 will be tightly contested. The Islanders have needed to battle back from multiple-goal deficits twice and could do themselves a favor by playing with the lead in their game on Thursday. It will also help if the Islanders have Mathew Barzal healthy after he left Game 5 with an injury. The young superstar has been one of the best players on the ice in the series.