The New York Islanders will face the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders won their Qualifying Round against the Florida Panthers and their first-round matchup with the Wahington Capitals dropping only one game in each series.
“We’ve basically gotten through two rounds right now, from a mental and a physical standpoint,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “It’s sort of engrained in your DNA of what you need to do and how you have to play.”@NYIslanders
The Flyers had a different path to the second round. Despite coming into the round-robin as the fourth seed, the Flyers were unbeaten in three games and secured the top seed in the playoffs. They then defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games to set up the first playoff matchup with New York since 1987.
The Islanders played solid hockey in all but two periods against the Capitals, and Anthony Beauvillier and Mat Barzal came up with huge performances. Beauvillier became the first Islander to have multiple two-goal games in the same series since Mike Bossy in 1985, and Barzal scored the overtime winner in Game 3.
New York’s defense was also up to the task even without Johnny Boychuk, who has not played since Game 1 against Florida. The Islanders’ top defensive pairing of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock played exceptionally well. They will be challenged by the high-flying Flyers’ first line of Michael Raffl, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek. They also have Claude Giroux on the wing now and had success with the man advantage versus the Canadiens.
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The Islanders received strong performances from Nick Leddy and Andy Greene and will need them to step up again with the Flyers getting last change in four of the seven games as the higher seed. New York should also expect to see Ivan Provorov on the ice for nearly half the game; the young defenseman has become a star.
Both goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Carter Hart have shined at times this postseason. While Varlamov has more experience, Hart is blossoming at a very young age and recently defeated his idol Carey Price in the first round. Both teams have reliable backups in Brian Elliott and Thomas Greiss. Still, the Islanders have yet to use Greiss after he split the starting job with Varlamov this season. Elliott came in for relief of Hart in Game 2 versus the Canadiens.
If there was one team the Islanders had success against this season, it was the Flyers. Despite only playing three of their expected four matchups, New York won all three games which were high-scoring affairs. Their first meeting came during the Islanders’ 10-game winning streak as the two teams combined for eight goals in a 5-3 win.
These rivals met the following month as the Islanders continued their long point streak, and came back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period to force extra time and won in a shootout. In the final meeting, the Islanders opened up a 3-0 lead after the first period, but the Flyers tied it up this time. However, Pulock scored the game-winner in the final minute, and Leo Komarov added an empty-net goal to help the Islanders to another 5-3 win.
Varlamov started both games that New York won in regulation. Elliott came in relief for Hart in the first game and then started the final two games of the season series. The Islanders received goals from ten different skaters and had Barzal, Beauvillier, and Pulock all register a pair of goals in the season series. Similarly, the Flyers spread out their scoring, and only Travis Konecny and Couturier had more than one goal. The Islanders are also 19-6 against head coach Alain Vigneault since the 2014-15 season.
“Anytime you have a division matchup in the playoffs, that rivalry is going to increase a little bit,” said Islanders captain Anders Lee. “Anytime we see these guys or anyone else in the division it is a pretty intense game and obviously it is going to be no different coming up in the next round.”@NYIslanders
These teams have a rich playoff history, including a Stanley Cup Final matchup when Bobby Nystrom scored the overtime goal to help the Islanders win their first championship in team history in 1980. Before that, the Flyers defeated New York in the 1975 Conference Finals in seven games. New York nearly came back from a second consecutive 3-0 deficit, but fell in seven games. Philadelphia went on to win their second straight Stanley Cup. The Flyers also have won the two other meetings in 1985 and 1987.
Regardless of the season series and their playoff history, both teams play extremely tough which should make for an exciting playoff series. It’s the second straight season New York has reached the second round and will be hoping to make it through for the first time since 1993.
They have won just one game in their last two second-round meetings after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five in 2016 and were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019. Their series against the Flyers will begin on Monday at 7 p.m. in Toronto.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.