The Philadelphia Flyers nearly completed a huge comeback against the New York Islanders, but they ultimately fell short.
The Philadelphia Flyers entered the bubble with a bang, emerging from the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament as the top-ranked team in the East. Unfortunately for them, they played their three best games of the postseason in that tournament. The Flyers squeaked past the Montreal Canadiens in six games and needed three overtime wins to force a Game 7 against the New York Islanders.
While the Flyers were one of the youngest teams in the bubble, this still feels like a huge, wasted opportunity for them. The Flyers got to face the Islanders in the second round and completely fell short, especially in a lifeless Game 7.
At the beginning of August, nobody would have believed you if you told them the Flyers would be heading out in the second round. They looked like they were going to be a lock to at least make the Eastern Conference Final. But the Flyers in the bubble never looked quite as good as the team that won 10 straight games just before the hiatus in mid-March.
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Let’s take a look at three reasons why the Flyers are heading home far earlier than they wanted to.
3. Vigneault Got Outcoached
Alain Vigneault did not have a good series. He nearly cost his team in Game 2 with a costly challenge that failed. Luckily for him, his players bailed him out by winning in overtime. Vigneault made another dumb challenge in Game 5, which led to the Islanders scoring a power play goal. Again, his players bailed him out.
In Game 6, Vigneault wasted another challenge, with the Islanders scoring on the ensuring power play. The Flyers bailed him out once again. Frankly, Vigneault is lucky the series even got to seven games. He cost his team two goals and nearly cost them a win in Game 2. All of the challenges were silly and weren’t getting overturned.
Barry Trotz was clearly the better coach in this series. He had his team focused and calm even after losing Games 5 and 6 in overtime. The Islanders were fully prepared going into Game 7 while the Flyers simply weren’t, and it showed as the Flyers committed not one, but two, too many men on the ice penalties in Game 7.
2. Thomas Greiss
In 2016, Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss played a huge role in helping his team beat the Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. History repeated itself in 2020, as Greiss was huge for the Islanders against the Flyers.
Greiss replaced Semyon Varlamov in Game 2 after Varlamov allowed three early goals. He led the way as the Islanders nearly made the epic comeback. Greiss stopped all the shots he saw in regulation and 21 of 22 shots overall.
He was called upon again in Game 4. That was arguably the Flyers’ best overall game in the series, as they put a lot of pressure on Greiss. The German goaltender was up to the task, stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced in Game 4. Had Game 4 gone differently, the Philadelphia Flyers likely would have won the series. And had Greiss started Game 2, the Flyers likely would have been swept.
It’s not like it mattered that he started in Game 7 because the Islanders were so dominant. But Greiss still shutout the Philadelphia Flyers, putting the final nail in their coffin by stopping each of the 16 shots on goal he saw. He wasn’t tested that much, which can be hard for a goalie, but he came out on top.
1. Power(less) Play
The Flyers had trouble scoring against the Islanders at even strength this series, which shouldn’t be a series. Trotz’s team is very tough to score against. They had an 8.47% shooting percentage against them at even strength, a slight decrease from their 9.78% even strength shooting percentage during the regular season.
When you’re struggling to score at even strength, you’ve got to get some goals on the power play. The Philadelphia Flyers scored zero power play goals against the Islanders in 13 opportunities. To their credit, the Islanders did a great job of staying out of the box. It’s sort of hard to score on the power play if you’re not given many power plays to begin with.
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In Game 4, the Flyers could have grabbed an early lead, as they were given two early power plays. Instead, the Islanders were able to keep them off the scoreboard and win the game 3-2. The Flyers could have changed the momentum in this series with a power play goal or two. Instead, they’re heading home early.