Well, the Flyers are still in the playoff race, as I have been told by many. This is essentially a roundabout way of saying that they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, and so every game is a must-win, and I unfortunately am forced with a knife to my throat to obsessively scoreboard-watch. It would be a relief for this to be over, but after the win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, they are extending this for the foreseeable future. Another win against the New York Islanders will put them within three points of the playoff picture. Or whatever.
For reasons I cannot fully explain, this team is second in the division only to the Washington Capitals, who are the literal reigning Stanley Cup Champions. I just had to look at some statistics (don’t go into cardiac arrest; I have these capabilities) and to be honest, it made me feel a little bit ill. Do you know that Mathew Barzal leads the team with a whopping 58 points? And that he’s the only guy on that entire team with over 50 points?
After losing John Tavares in the offseason and bringing in Valterri Filppula (the same one) and Leo Komarov, the Islanders looked poised to be terrible, and what a treat it was for me to see that. I don’t care about the Islanders, but it feels good and just whenever a team that is not the Flyers is bad, and I love to dunk on people who deserve it. New Yorkers almost always do.
To my deep, overwhelming disappointment, I can’t really do that, because the Islanders are, uh, good? That can’t be right, and yet it is.
The answer for this is a simple one: despite sucking in almost every other area, Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner have been over-performing all season. Who needs to score goals and prevent scoring chances when you can just rely on your goalie to make the saves? It’s utter trash. The two of them have a combined .926 save percentage. I’m going to throw up. The injustice of it all. The cruelty. It’s disgusting to me.
Despite all that, the Flyers have a wonderful habit of absolutely beating the hell out of the Islanders (not counting that loss in October, of which I won’t speak of) lately, and I feel fairly confident they can do it again here, completely imprisoning us in the hell that is this playoff push for the rest of the season. I truly believe it will come down to the final game. We won’t be free until then.
STEP ONE: Solve the damn goaltending
This is an easy thing for me, some loser sitting at home at her computer, to say all willy-nilly, but it’s the most obvious and logical objective. The goaltending for the Islanders has been outrageously good, and those goalies are the only reason why this team is where it is right now. Greiss and Lehner have dragged this team kicking and screaming into second place in the division.
It’s a pretty simple thing: overwhelm the goalie. Take advantage of the holes in the Islanders defense and get some quality shots to the net. You have to be opportunistic when facing a solid goaltender; eventually they will slip up. Jump on those rebounds, boys, get fancy with it, be creative. The Flyers will need to be aggressive here.
What I am basically saying is: we gotta ahh, get pucks to the net and uhh, get pucks in ahh, deep, and ahh just play our game and ahh we’ll find a way to win.
STEP TWO: Take advantage of the slump, but anticipate a more desperate performance
The Islanders are experiencing somewhat of a slump. How absolutely surprising. As Flyers fans, we’ve seen firsthand how easily even a small slump in production can drag down the confidence of a team. All it takes is a little bit of a losing streak to make players frustrated and prone to mistakes. The Flyers will need to take advantage of this; a team in a cold spell is one that can be easy to manipulate.
The flip side to this is that the Islanders are going to be focused on getting back to their former glory, or whatever. With playoffs looming on the horizon, it’s more important than ever for a playoff team to shake themselves out of their funk before going into the first round. The Flyers should be prepared for the Islanders to make a strong effort to bounce back.
STEP THREE: Score on the power play
Come on. Just do it. Please?
Flyers Projected Lineup:
Lindblom — Couturier — Giroux
JVR — Patrick — Voracek
Hartman — Laughton — Konecny
Raffl — Knight — Bailey
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas