The most promising Flyers season in years came to a halt in Game 7 of the ECSF this past Saturday.
Then, the Islanders scored against that early run of play and it was almost all New York after that. Over the whole of the series, it’s pretty clear that Barry Trotz and the Islanders outplayed and outcoached the Flyers, disappointing in that regard.
Chances like this were few and far between in Game 7.
However, I did not see the Flyers getting shutout in Game 7 coming at all. Even with New York outplaying Philadelphia for the most part, the Flyers’ game was improving, I would say from Game 4 to Game 6.
In a seven-game series, the losing team can always point to certain plays, moments or games that could have totally changed who advanced to the next round. Even with the Flyers securing victories in all three overtime contests, this still applies.
After Game 2, the series was tied at 1-1 after Phil Myers snapped a shot from the point that found the back of the net in OT. Nothing wrong with a series being tied up, but this is where Game 3 and Game 4 become backbreakers.
Philly scored first in Game 3 early on, but then could not find another goal; against a team playing how New York was, you need more than that. In Game 4, I thought it was the Flyers’ best performance of the series up to that point. Yet, they found their second goal of the game with just over a minute left in the third period. One or two defensive lapses cost them that game, just brutal in a key game to make the series 2-2 or go down 3-1—Matt Niskanen had a game to forget.
I have mentioned this previously, but Joel Farabee not putting that prime chance away in Game 4 was huge. That was the best chance the Flyers had after a stretch of struggling in third period offensively, it would have changed the complexion of that game.
The orange and black also had a hard time exiting their zone, as they were under siege by a very aggressive Islander forecheck throughout the series. This forced multiple bad turnovers that directly led to Islander goals. I hope this can serve as a good learning experience for Flyers d-men like Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers and even Ivan Provorov to an extent.
Offense was hard to come by for large stretches against this Islanders team, naturally it became the talking point for pundits, media and fans. First off, yes, I agree that the Flyers “big guns” were often struggling to get good scoring opportunities, especially on the powerplay. This I where I pivot to the coaching staff. During the regular season, Philly was generally dangerous with the man advantage—they finished seventh in the NHL with a 20.8% powerplay. For that good of a unit to go belly up like it did in this postseason, and stay as bad as it did, the coaching must be responsible for some of that failure. Michel Therrien, sorry but I am looking at you.
Just to put the Flyers’ postseason PP in perspective, the New York Rangers played a total of 3 games in the playoffs and had a 7.1% powerplay (1/14). The Flyers played 13 more games, their powerplay was 7.7% in this postseason (4/52). Yikes.
If the Flyers could’ve gotten at minimum an average powerplay, both players along with others are almost guaranteed to have better showings pointwise. Having better stats also can build confidence that can translate into better 5v5 play. My point is, these things matter in a tough playoff series.
I am not saying players like Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek are free of criticism, but the criticism should be fair. The production was not there that you would expect, plain and simple. But this can also be directly related to a terrible powerplay, especially for an often-elite special teams player in Giroux. The captain did have games where he played well, but just couldn’t break through enough.
Voracek had a strong series against Montreal, but his production dried up against New York. I still thought he was playing hard against the Islanders—there were games where he still looked to have his skating legs and was zipping all over the offensive zone. You see that Voracek and think to yourself, “Man, why doesn’t he play like that all of the time?”
Once again, I am not trying to make excuses for the top-end Flyer forwards. I think this team goes into the offseason knowing they could have played better hockey and believing they should have won the series. Flyers fans have a right to be frustrated with how the series went, I know I still am.
Whether General Manager Chuck Fletcher thinks an injection of more youth, or additional firepower is needed we will have to wait and see. As cliché as it sounds at times, this will be a crucial offseason.