That’s not how the Flyers drew it up to start their first second-round playoff series since 2012.
The Flyers took a 4-0 loss to the Islanders in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Monday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The club finally didn’t see Carey Price in the opposing net, but it didn’t matter. The Flyers didn’t start well and then couldn’t crack Barry Trotz’s defensive-minded Islanders.
The Flyers can be better defensively. However, they were in the game for the majority of it; the offensive issues are most glaring for a team that scored the NHL’s seventh-most goals per game during the regular season.
A positive on the Flyers’ outlook: Since Jan. 7, in games after their last 10 losses, the Flyers are 10-0-0 and have outscored the opposition 44-19.
• A subpar first period can be really costly against a team like New York, which is difficult to beat when it grabs a lead. The Islanders clog up the middle and tighten up the ice defensively. They’re pests in the defensive zone.
In the game’s opening 20 minnutes, New York completely outworked and outplayed the Flyers, which eventually led to the Islanders’ 1-0 advantage on Andy Greene’s goal a little over six minutes into the action.
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 24, 2020
New York outshot the Flyers 15-4 in the first stanza and set the tone for the game. The Flyers made a concerted second-period push, but when it didn’t result in anything, it almost became time to press.
• After the Flyers expended so much energy in the middle frame but had nothing to show for it, the Islanders pounced in the third period with goals from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anders Lee as New York took full control.
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault made a desperation gamble by pulling Carter Hart with seven-plus minutes left and it backfired when Devon Toews deposited an empty-net goal.
New York has won eight of its 10 games in the tournament and has outscored the opposition 34-15.
• The Flyers’ big boys remained quiet offensively and Sean Couturier did not look like his Selke Trophy-finalist self. Maybe we’ve gotten spoiled seeing him almost always look so sound and making the right play, but the 27-year-old center had a pair of giveaways, couldn’t break up the play on Pageau’s goal and wasn’t a huge threat offensively, which the Flyers need him to be as their first-line center, especially in this matchup.
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 25, 2020
Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny are still without a goal 10 games into the tournament. Konecny had great energy and more chances but couldn’t convert. He was visibly frustrated and understandably so.
The Flyers had 11 goals in their three-game round robin but have only 11 goals through seven games over the first and second round.
The Flyers went on the power play only once, as did the Islanders.
• Hart made 25 saves on 28 shots.
He made a highlight-reel save in the first period and kept the Flyers afloat. It was one of the Flyers’ lone highlights.
HOLY HART SAVE pic.twitter.com/RhwhiEvtaw
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 24, 2020
Even one of the officials was like, “You kidding me, kid?” on that Carter Hart save. pic.twitter.com/44ZVqUiHkM
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) August 24, 2020
Semyon Varlamov, the Islanders’ 32-year-old goalie who entered with the best goals-against average in the playoffs at 1.67, delivered a shutout on 29 saves.
New York came in yielding only 1.67 goals per game, the fewest in the playoffs. The Flyers must start better and will have to earn their goals against this team.
• Shayne Gostisbehere earned himself another game following a promising performance Friday night during the first round in the Flyers’ series-clinching 3-2 Game 6 win over the Canadiens. Gostisbehere entered the lineup then in place of the suspended Matt Niskanen. In Game 1 against the Islanders, Robert Hagg became the odd man out.
With his offensive abilities, Gostisbehere can be such a luxury as a third-pair blueliner when he’s looking like himself. Vigneault likes puck-moving defensemen that can beat the forecheck and orchestrate the attack.
If Gostisbehere struggles, Vigneault knows exactly what he can turn to in Hagg, more of the traditional stay-at-home type. This seemed like a decent opportunity to keep Gostisbehere going early in the series and see if he could keep building on his offensive strengths in a matchup that is expected to be defensively driven.
Gostisbehere sometimes gets pinned in the defensive zone and struggles to clear the puck, which happened badly during one sequence in the second period. Gostisbehere needs to be pushing the puck north for Vigneault to keep him in the lineup. He finished scoreless with four giveaways in 16:50 minutes.
• After missing three straight games with an undisclosed issue, Nicolas Aube-Kubel returned to the lineup as James van Riemsdyk came out.
It’s certainly alarming that van Riemsdyk has sat in four of the Flyers’ 10 games through the tournament. He has played 11:50 minutes per game and gone scoreless through six contests.
If the Flyers are in desperate need of offense as the series wears on, they could turn to the two-time 30-goal scorer.
• The series continues Wednesday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
For the full series schedule, click here.
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