After a full day of recovering from that Game 6 victory, let’s talk about Game 7.
The Flyers needed overtime to pull out the win yet again Thursday night, but this time it was not just one extra period. With just under five minutes left in the second overtime, Ivan Provorov let a shot go through traffic to tie the series at 3-3.
I know a lot of Flyers fans (including myself) are getting a little tired of seeing the Islanders comeback repeatedly when the Flyers have the lead. Philly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period in Game 6. Even with the Flyers having a hard time holding a lead, they have been trending upwards in their play since Game 4. Yes, I know there was a huge shot differential in favor of NYI last game, but it is true.
There are a few takeaways from Game 6 that I want to talk about, some positive and some negative that will impact the outcome of this series tonight.
First and foremost, the play of Carter Hart in Game 6. Hart was on his game from start to finish, a huge performance from him in an elimination game which saw him face 53 shots on target. He made a key save on Islanders forward Casey Cizikas early in the game:
Hart was once again clutch in OT, he stoned Islander captain Anders Lee to keep the season alive:
Now, I must pivot to the play of the Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim defensive pairing. As fans, we need to realize that both of these guys are good young defensemen and have played well overall in these playoffs. There is no need to panic about the long-term.
However, this pairing has struggled with handling the Islander forecheck during this series, I hope to see them both being smart with the puck in Game 7. In my book, Sanheim had his worst game of the playoffs in Game 6, with the worst turnover of the playoffs as well.
It was a filthy turnover which led to a Matthew Barzal goal with under a minute left in the second period. Brutal. The Flyers were lucky that was not a back breaker. Safe to say I was losing my mind in this moment.
As I mentioned earlier, since Game 4 the Flyers play has improved considerably, which is a big reason why we are still alive. A driving factor behind that is the play of Kevin Hayes. Hayes has been a real positive force at both ends of the ice, minus a few turnovers in the defensive zone. He had two points in Game 6 (1G, 1A).
Throughout the season and the beginning of the playoffs, the Flyers have been one of the best faceoff teams in the NHL. If you isolate this series, the Islanders have been tough in the faceoff circle and it has been even at times.
In Game 6, the Flyers won 56% of faceoffs compared to 44% by New York, with Claude Giroux posting a 62% himself. In Game 7, I am sure Giroux, Hayes etc. will have plenty of key draws and they need to dominate these scenarios.
A category that the Flyers need to stop dominating in is TURNOVERS. There have been stretches where Philadelphia has done a good job of thwarting the Islanders in the neutral zone and not letting them set up offensively. Then, a turnover or a failed clearance just flips a switch and the Islanders look dangerous. It’s how they have generated a good amount of their goals.
The Flyers had 30 giveaways (GVA) in Game 6, compared to 16 posted by New York. Clearing the puck strongly needs to be a key point of emphasis, especially with the Islanders being dependent on Flyers mistakes for offense at times. I am sure a lot of Flyers fans would agree with me on that one.
An encouraging development continues to be the play of James van Riemsdyk, who is visibly playing with confidence and skating very well.
You have to wonder if it took JVR a little more time to get conditioned again, or if being benched by Alain Vigneault provided some motivation. Either way, that is two goals in two games and if this is the time for a JVR hot streak, it is the best possible time.
Also, I can’t not discuss Oskar Lindblom. Talk about being thrown into the fire and playing about as well as you could ask of him. It was so awesome to see him back on the ice, and it is pretty much guaranteed that he has provided a boost to the locker room.
Both teams gave a stick tap to Lindblom during a stoppage of play in the first period, these things are bigger than hockey. We love you, Oskar.
The Flyers faceoff against the Islanders in Game 7 tonight at 7:30 p.m.. I hope everyone brings their big boy pants to the rink tonight, especially with the status of Selke-finalist Sean Couturier still up in the air. With or without Coots, this will have to be a complete team effort.
Time to break that trend.
Fly or die.