The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs brought many surprises. Tampa Bay overcame its Columbus curse and cleaned house against the Blue Jackets. The Boston Bruins did not let injuries or opt-outs get to them and took out the Carolina Hurricanes. You also have the mess the Dallas Stars made of the Calgary Flames.
Then, of course, you have the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders, who took care of business against the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, respectively.
One team scored 17 goals and eliminated their opponent in five games. The other squeaked by and scored only 11 goals in a six-game series.
The automatic assumption would be that Philadelphia’s electric offense scored the 17 goals and eliminated the Canadiens in the shorter series. The Islanders, meanwhile, utilized their strong goaltending and supplemented it with only 11 goals to get the job done in six games against Washington.
The script was instead flipped, as it was Philadelphia who only scored 11 goals and had to go to six games with Montreal, whereas the Islanders blew away the Capitals in five swift games.
The offensive jolt for the Islanders comes as shock, considering they only averaged 2.78 goals per game during the regular season, which ranked 22nd in the NHL. The Flyers, meanwhile, averaged 3.29 goals per game, which ranked seventh. Philadelphia had four skaters score at least 20 goals during the regular season (Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux). New York? Only two (Brock Nelson and Anders Lee).
Through postseason play, the Islanders have received a balanced offensive attack from numerous lines in their arsenal, as six skaters have at least three goals. The Flyers, meanwhile, have yet to get going on offense this postseason, as only four skaters have at least three goals. In fact, Konecny, Couturier and Giroux have zero goals this postseason, despite all three skaters playing in all 10 postseason games so far.
On the goaltending side of the ice, both teams bring steady netminders. The Islanders have used Semyon Varlamov for all 10 of their postseason games, and who would blame them – he has a 1.50 Goals Against Average (GAA), .941 Save Percentage (Sv%) and two shutouts to his name. On Philadelphia’s side, 22-year-old Carter Hart has a 1.86 GAA, .938 Sv% and two shutouts in nine postseason games started. When combined with both teams possessing defenses that make it difficult to shoot toward the net (Philadelphia’s 28.7 shots allowed per game ranked first during the regular season, while New York’s 31.2 ranked 15th), offenses will have trouble creating rhythm.
Even still, both teams will be able to create chances via hard forechecking and backchecking. Although Philadelphia has struggled to score this postseason, their line depth will be too much for New York to keep quiet constantly and consistently throughout the series. While they should still be able to score themselves and limit Philadelphia offensively to boot, it only takes one mistake to wake Philadelphia up.
One mistake could be all it takes to swing the series.
If you love hard-nosed hockey, where checks are rampant and the goaltending will shine, this series will be for you, as both teams bring nasty hitters and excellent goaltenders to the rink. With what looks to be a series that goes the full duration, depth will be key on all sides of the ice. Although the Islanders bring nice offensive players and currently maintain a one-game advantage over their opponent, Philadelphia’s depth on offense will find its groove and shine just a bit more and pull out a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Flyers in 7