Game Preview: Flyers vs. Islanders (Game 6)

Story posted September 3, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jacob Cheris

The Philadelphia Flyers barely staved off elimination on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders, now sitting just one win away from forcing a Game 7. Scott Laughton, who scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, tipped a point-shot from Ivan Provorov, and it went through the five-hole of Semyon Varlamov. Both Philadelphia wins in this series are via overtime. If the Flyers end up winning tonight, it would be the second time in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs that there would be a Game 7. The Islanders are now 0-3 in attempting to close out a series on their first opportunity, but they have not lost back-to-back games so far in the tournament.

The biggest concern from Tuesday’s nailbiter were the injuries to Sean Couturier and Mathew Barzal. Both players are massive assets to their respective clubs, Couturier for Philadelphia in particular, as he is a Selke Trophy finalist for the best defensive forward. Couturier was in a knee-on-knee collision with Barzal and did not play for the rest of the game. Barzal, on the other hand, was cut in the eye by a follow-through shot from Claude Giroux. Barzal did not return to the game. Both injuries were in the third period.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said this morning that Barzal will be a “game-time decision.” Barzal plays on the top line with Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. If Barzal does not play, Jean-Gabrial Pageau will most likely center the first line and rookie Otto Koivula, the Islanders’ only extra center, will slide into the lineup to make his NHL debut.

“We’ve got a good leadership group that’s been in this position before that can help their teammates put the focus in the right areas and come to play tomorrow,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com on Wednesday.

Vigneault did not comment on Couturier’s status this morning. If Couturier does not play, then Giroux could move to center and Vigneault will go to one of his three extra centers: Michael Raffl, Connor Bunnaman or Morgan Frost.

The Flyers dominated play through about 56 minutes, outshooting the Islanders 22-13 through two periods, but the Islanders came back to tie the game at 3-3. They outshot the Flyers 12-6 in the third with goals from Brock Nelson (6) and Derick Brassard (1).

“We started to get it going as the game went on, but after last game, not good enough when you're trying to clinch a series," Nelson told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com after Tuesday’s loss. "The team's fighting to keep going, so we have to find a way to be a little bit better, come out of the gates, get on the attack and try to get a lead."

Giroux finally got on the scoresheet Tuesday, scoring his first goal of the playoffs, alongside James van Riemsdyk and Matt Niskanen. Niskanen did not have a good Game 4, as he was minus-two on Sunday, but his Game 5 goal should give him some more confidence come Thursday. He is also the only player on the Flyers roster to previously win a Stanley Cup.

Semyon Varlamov and Carter Hart will start again in goal. Both goalies faced 32 shots on Tuesday, with Varlamov making one less save (28) than Hart (29). Hart is 8-4-0 this postseason with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, while Varlamov is 9-3-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.

It’s also worth noting that there was a bit of controversy regarding goaltenders in overtime in Game 5. This occurred when Hart played the puck outside of the trapezoid. For goalies, this is considered a delay of game penalty. This is a rare penalty for goalies to take. However, the referees gave Hart a warning instead of a penalty. This non-call could potentially be a series-changing play. As such, Islanders fans on social media were very upset about the play.

For the Flyers to force a Game 7, they cannot take their foot off the gas. Teams around the league have been doing that, and it’s costing them games. It’s a mental battle as much as it is a physical battle.

For the Islanders to close it out in six, they have to play a physical game and win every puck they can. The Islanders are considered the home team, so they will get the last line change. This is an aspect of hockey that gets very underlooked. Trotz can get the right line combination out on the ice once he sees which Flyers line is out there. The Islanders have won both games as the “home team” in this series.

Game 6 begins at 7 p.m. EST at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

 

Jacob Cheris is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jacobcheris19@gmail.com.