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The Islanders finished their chances in Game 1

A look at how the Islanders Islanders’ed on Monday.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

We knew the Philadelphia Flyers’ series against the New York Islanders wasn’t going to be fun to watch and the loss in Game 1 proved it. That doesn’t mean it’s already over, it just means there should be more games like this that resemble the series against the Montreal Canadiens rather than a more open contest with a little higher scoring. Since goals will be at a premium the Orange and Black need to learn from their mistakes on Monday, which we will now painfully dissect.

Andy Greene does something he hasn’t done since 2010

The play starts with Josh Bailey entering the Flyers’ zone with possession before Scott Laughton is able to knock him off the puck.

Travis Sanheim attempts to chip one past Bailey and fails to clear it twice before Greene fires a pass down low to Anthony Beauvillier at the bottom of the right circle, who is open because Sanheim was caught high in the zone after two failed clears.

Phil Myers darts across the slot to put pressure on Beauvillier before the trio of Myers, Sanheim, and Nate Thompson struggle to regain possession for Philly against Beauvillier, Bailey, and Brock Nelson before the disc ultimately ends up with Greene at the point.

Laughton follows Greene to the middle of the ice and circles back to the high slot after Greene slides a pass over to Nelson at the right point. After Thompson comes out to challenge Nelson the Islander glides it back over to Greene, who manages to rock a slap shot through five bodies in front and in.

Takeaways

  • Thompson has been a talking point so far this postseason. Whether you think he’s been rightfully ripped or his impact on the ice is overlooked it seems everyone can agree on the role Thompson is expected to play, which is a defensive center that will help more in the Flyers’ zone than on the scoreboard. All things considered he did his job on Monday, as the Islander he faced the most at 5-on-5 was Mat Barzal and the Flyers owned 10 of the 15 shot attempts, four of the seven shots on goal, and a 51.79 Expected goals-for percentage while Thompson was out there against the Islanders’ star (am I allowed to use stats when talking about Thompson?). However it seems as though it’s unfair to use underlying numbers, production, or point out he’s only spending shifts in the defensive zone to explain why Thompson may not be all that great of a hockey player because those that like his game say those three measurements of ability are hindered due to his role. We’re supposed to lean on his ability to block shots, win big faceoffs, and the help he provides to get the puck out of the defensive zone to believe he’s a solid asset. He, Sanheim, and Myers failed on numerous opportunities to grab possession of the puck in the right corner and get it the hell out of danger. Hopefully he continues to tilt the ice in Philly’s favor if he’s going to match up with Barzal the whole series, but if the only bar we have set for Thompson at 5-on-5 is ‘don’t give up goals against’ then he’s got to start clearing that bar.
  • Thompson and Scott Laughton had a miscommunication at the point which led to Greene having space. Doesn’t necessarily look like either skater’s fault (and can’t really pin the goal on either, since a point shot found its way to the back of the net through traffic), but it is something that helped to create the goal. Thompson is the line’s center and would normally have coverage in the middle of the ice, but with the way the play developed it made sense for Laughton to transition. The two seemingly had different ideas on what they should do once Nelson dished it back to Greene.
  • This came in the middle of a first period where the Islanders were all over the Flyers. New York seemed more aggressive on their forecheck to open the game before they returned to their normal selves in the second period by displaying a defensive-zone shutdown. Barry Trotz has made the Islanders a nightmare to play against and to make matters worse he may have picked up how the Montreal Canadiens effectively forechecked the Orange and Black in the opening round to put them on their heels in their own zone.

J.G. Pageau doubles the lead

The start of this goal-scoring play happened thanks to the Islanders’ play in the neutral zone. Jakub Voracek attempts to carry the puck from the Flyers’ zone to New York’s end, but Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov step up to force a turnover. Ryan Pulock picks up the loose change and fires it up the boards.

Pageau tries to corral the puck, but instead turns it over to Sanheim. Philly’s rearguard attempts to send it right back the boards the other way, but Pageau is able to direct the puck into the middle of the ice for Adam Pelech to lob into the Flyers’ left corner.

Sanheim is the first to the hunk of rubber but Johnston is able to knock the puck loose and Komarov beats Myers in an effort for puck support to give New York possession. Sean Couturier, who tried to give Philadelphia an advantage in the board battle below the goal line, is late to the scene and can’t prevent Komarov’s pass to Pageau in the slot before the former Ottawa Senator doubled the deficit.

Takeaways

  • This looks like a goal from Game 2 of the Canadiens’ series and is a goal the Islanders will probably force a few more of over the next week or so. It’s a string of simple plays that resulted in a goal: force a pair of neutral zone turnovers to prevent your opponent from getting the puck deep, finesse the puck into the corner to give your forwards a chance to win a puck battle rather than rim it around in hopes of retrieving it, two forwards muscle their way to possession through board battles, and get the puck to the slot. Every team in the league can play this way, but the Islanders are the only team successfully doing it night in and night out because their entire roster has bought into the system.
  • Couturier had a night to forget on Monday. His 37.5 Corsi-For percentage (nine shot attempts for Philly when he was on the ice and 15 against) at 5-on-5 was the lowest on the Flyers. That number doesn’t always indicate a player had a poor night at the office, but for a play-driving monster like Couturier it’s one way to show that he was off his game. Another example was this play, where he showed up too late in support of the board battles below the goal line and he left Pageau open in front to beat a helpless Hart. There aren’t too many things Flyers’ fans can bank on being better in Game 2, but it’s a safe bet that he should return to form today. Whether or not he and the rest of the top six can make it count is another question entirely.
  • Sanheim and Myers have been the best defensive pair for the Flyers in the bubble, but they have to stop allowing goals against after losing puck battles. Both players failed to pin a Hab before Montreal scored on two different plays in Game 2 of the previous series and Jonathan Drouin squirmed away from Sanheim’s grasp to set up Nick Suzuki’s second tally in Game 6. It’s a weird thing to focus on, but this pair has been on the ice for three goals against at 5-on-5 since the start of the Montreal series and all three (including both of the goals against them in Game 1) could have been prevented with a less nonchalant approach to some pucks near the boards.

Anders Lee seals the deal

A neutral zone faceoff ends up with Matt Niskanen firing the puck deep into New York’s zone for the forwards to chase. As the biscuit wraps around to the left corner to Pulock Joel Farabee cuts to the middle of the ice while Kevin Hayes slides over to coverage on the left wing. Pulock is able to get to the puck first and chipped it past Hayes and Farabee to give New York a 3-on-2 from high in their own zone with Mathew Barzal carrying the puck between Lee and Jordan Eberle against Niskanen and Ivan Provorov.

After Barzal slid the puck over to Eberle in the neutral zone Eberle and Barzal completed a pair of passes around Provorov and Niskanen respectively to set up Lee across the ice. The power forward is able to pound one past Hart as Farabee failed to recover in time.

Takeaways

  • This is another example of the Islanders being the Islanders as they once again cashed in on an opportunistic play. This play turned into an odd-man rush before the disc even exited the Islanders’ zone and New York turned a simple gaffe in forecheck coverage from Philly into the third goal of the evening. Since Hayes failed to cut off a possible chip by getting up against the glass and Farabee misjudged which way to support the play the Isles worked their way up ice and completed a pair of pretty passes before Lee slammed home his fourth goal of the postseason.
  • Although this is a prime example of how annoyingly opportunistic the Islanders are it’s worth noting some trends the Flyers and the rest of the NHL shouldn’t want to see at the moment. The main reason why a lot of people don’t believe the Islanders can go all the way is because despite the fact Trotz’s system is predicated on defense the team’s possession numbers hint at the club just getting annihilated in terms of chances against. During the 2019-20 regular season at 5-on-5 they ranked 29th with a 46.45 CF% which put them above only the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings and had the third-worst rate of shot attempts against-per-60. As we saw on Monday the Islanders are willing to allow a lot of noise and innocuous shot attempts against so the argument would be their numbers for allowing quality chances against should be low. This isn’t the case though as they finished 20th with a 48.84 Expected Goals-For percentage and Tied-15th with 2.31 Expected Goals-Against-per-60. So far in the bubble, however, the Islanders are 11th with 57.06 shot attempts against-per-60, sixth with a 55.43 xGF%, and tied for fourth with 1.58 xGA-per-60. If New York has found a way to sustain offensive pressure consistently on top of their ability to suffocate opponents’ attacks with their defensive astuteness the Flyers could be in for a rude awakening.

Devon Toews provides the icing on the cake

With his team down by three goals to a stingy defensive club and about to take an offensive zone draw Alain Vigneault pulls Hart with 7:50 left in regulation. Then this happened.

Takeaways

  • Sports!

*Video courtesy of NHL.com. Stats courtesy of NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick.