The New York Islanders fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 last night in overtime. Despite the loss, the Islanders lead the series 3-2, yet there is some panic among fans.
It’s not quite time to panic with the Islanders still leading the series, but when you dig a little deeper, there’s more to uncover that should make you feel confident heading into Game 6 tomorrow night.
For starters, the two losses both came in overtime. This is despite head coach Barry Trotz claiming the Islanders didn’t play their best games in either matchup. Had the Isles had a bounce or two go their way, they could have easily swept the Flyers and be headed to Edmonton to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference finals.
#Isles Barry Trotz says that was the "worst game" team has played in the playoffs.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) August 31, 2020
Behind the Numbers
Trotz isn’t exactly happy with the team’s performance, but they’re still better a hockey team than we have seen in a long time. The Isles have scored an average of 3.29 goals per game. That’s more than a Tampa team featuring guys like Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Alex Killorn (Steven Stamkos is currently sidelined).
Guys like Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson have bloated the Islanders goals for per game numbers, but watch out for Jordan Eberle. When he finally starts filling the net, you could see that number somewhere near the Colorado Avalanche who are averaging 4.00 goals a game.
On the flip-side, the Islanders are leading all teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 1.86 goals against per game. That includes teams who have already been eliminated from the postseason. The more games a team plays, the higher you’d expect that number to be.
Not the case for the Islanders.
Trotz has developed a system in which the Islanders have been executing for the most part. The Islanders do a great job of limiting their opponent to throwing pucks on net from the perimeter. Their shots against per game sits at fourth overall with a 27.4%. In 11 out of 14 games in the bubble, their opponents have been limited to 29 shots or less.
Part of the reason Isles opponents are so limited to getting pucks to the net is due to their ability to block shots. The Islanders sit in second place in the category with 269 blocked shots, that’s 40 more blocks than the Columbus Blue Jackets, sitting in third place. Only the Vancouver Canucks have blocked more shots in the playoffs with 310. Three Islanders are in the top 10 in the blocked shots category: Ryan Pulock (35), Scott Mayfield (34), and Adam Pelech (33).
However, the team got away from their defensive structure a little, allowing three tip-in goals over the past two games. But that can be prevented. Isles defenders need to make an adjustment in the slot and prevent the Flyers from clogging the shooting lanes. That will force the Flyers to continue shooting from the perimeter without traffic, preventing the high danger chances.
Down, but Never Out
The Islanders have certainly brought the mojo back that we saw much of the 2018-19 season. It was a season where no matter how much time was left on the scoreboard, you never felt like they were out of the game. That same mentality has finally presented itself again, after having been lost since the 17-game point streak.
#isles are 3-0 in games after a loss this postseason, chins up Isles fans, Thursday is another day #GameOn
— James Nichols (@JamesNicholsNYI) September 2, 2020
In games after a loss, the Islanders are 3-0. They’ve proven time and time again that they know how to respond. This is mostly due to the plus-15 goal differential the Isles currently hold in third periods.
“The Isles’ plus-15 goal differential in the third (21-6) has given them a good body of evidence to be convinced they can come back. as pointed out by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.
“Philly is minus-8 in third periods, with Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 goal as their first goal in the third of the series.”
In regards to Game 5, the Isles we’re without their best player in Mathew Barzal due to an injury. Skating with eight forwards, they were able to stage a comeback that sent them to overtime thanks to Nelson and Derick Brassard. That’s an impressive effort after your number one center goes down.
Trotz and Co. aren’t dwelling on the overtime loss, and are looking forward to Game 6. “Obviously, we would have liked to close it out,” Josh Bailey said. “That’s not the case . . . We’ll be moving on tonight.”
Barzal Should Be Available
It’s no secret that Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello like to keep some things left unsaid until the time is right. In last night’s post game, Trotz had no update on whether or not Barzal would be available for Game 6.
However, TheFourthPeriod’s David Pagnotta had the scoop that Barzal was okay and no damage was done to his eye.
As of this morning, Trotz said “his level of concern for Barzal’s availability for Game 6 is “moderate” but says everything “trending in the right direction.”
There was also this: earlier today, Flyers’ head coach, Alain Vigneault caught up with Barzal in an elevator, stating “I was happy to see and talk to him and see it was nothing serious. That could have been a real bad accident, but fortunately, the young man is alright.”
Staple did also note that the Islanders might need to roll out line combinations without Barzal for Game 6.
Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Islanders have proven over and over they are a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. They deserve to be where they are right now…just one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. The team and their fans should feel confident going into Game 6 tomorrow night. Trotz has assured all of us that his club will be ready to go.
I know I’m not going to start questioning him. Are you?
Holster your panic buttons, now is not the time.