There are a number of encouraging signs in the New York Islanders 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Here are the top three.
For the second straight game, the New York Islanders blanked their opponents by a score of 4-0. With their latest shutout victory, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead in their second-round series against the Flyers.
You’d think Trotz would be thrilled that his team walked away with a 4-0 victory, but the coach stated after the game that he “didn’t care for [his team’s] game”.
He’s right, of course. For the entire second period, the Islanders were under siege from the Flyers. If not for Semyon Varlamov playing like an anthropomorphic brick wall, the Isles don’t leave the second frame with a 1-0 lead.
While the Isles still need to work out a few issues after Game 1 (namely play a full 60), here are a few encouraging signs from the opening game of the second round that should lead to long term success for the Isles in the playoffs.
Flyers Top Line Was A Non Factor
The trio of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek was without question the worst grouping for the Flyers in Game 1. Over the full 60, they combined for three shots on net (Giroux had two).
Their underlying numbers show a group that consistently got outshot and out-chanced by the Islanders. The Flyers top unit finished with a -15 relative CF%, -39.98 relative xGF%, and -60 relative HDCF% with five HDCA to 0 HDCF.
Stats from NaturalStatTrick.
That trio is typically very productive against the Islanders for the Flyers. Over the last three seasons, they’ve combined for 36 points.
But in two years of playoff hockey, we’ve seen the Islanders consistently shut down their opponent’s best players.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin were non-factors in 2018, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau were quiet outside of the power play in the qualifying round, the Capitals top players like Ovechkin, Carlson, and Oshie put up four points at 5on5, and now their next victims are Couturier, Giroux, and Voracek.
The Isles ability to shut down a top line is a huge asset now and if they go forward.
Scoring Spread Out
In the Islanders 4-0 win over the Flyers, they received scoring from just about everywhere on the roster.
Veteran defenseman Andy Greene starting things off with his first playoff goal in over ten years. Deadline day acquisition and third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau put the team up 2-0. Captain Anders Lee added the insurance marker with a neat tic-tac-toe play by the Isles top line. And defenseman Devon Toews added a surprising empty netter to make it 4-0.
Nine different players on the Islanders roster had point against the Flyers. If you’re Alain Vigneault (or any other head coach), how do you shut down that type of depth? Any of the Isles four lines and three defensive pairings can put up production.
Top Offense and Defense
With 3.4 goals-for per game, the New York Islanders have the third-best offense for teams remaining in the postseason. Only the Vegas Golden Knights (3.89) and Colorado Avalanche (3.6) score more goals per game than the Isles.
On the defensive end, the Islanders hold the best defensive record for teams who have played in the postseason or are still in the playoffs with 1.50 goals against per game.
We knew before the puck dropped on the postseason that the Isles would rely on defense to win games. What we didn’t know is that they could put up top tier offense. Over the last 150 regular-season games under Barry Trotz, the Islanders have put up 2.75 goals-for per game, ranking them 24th in the NHL for offense.
Not only can the Islanders defend better than any team out there, but they can score with the best of them.