The New York Islanders, the Flyers’ next opponent in the Eastern Conference semifinals, are similar to the Montreal Canadiens team that just gave the Flyers more headaches than a maternity ward full of crying infants.
Their second-round series starts Monday at 7 p.m. and will be shown on NBCSN.
New York is playing as well as anyone, at least in the East. Their goalie may not be as renowned as Carey Price, but he’s experienced. And their forwards are more polished than what the Flyers just endured in their six-game victory over the Habs.
“There’s a reason why they won so quickly against the Capitals,” Flyers forward Kevin Hayes said of the Islanders.
Sure is. It’s called defense.
The Islanders have allowed the second-fewest shots per game in the postseason, and have given up two goals or less in seven of nine games. It took them four games to take care of Florida in the best-of-five qualifying round, and they eliminated Washington with a 4-0 shutout in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series.
Game 1: Monday, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 2: Wednesday, 3 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 3: Thursday, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 4: Saturday, Aug. 29, 12 p.m. (NBC)
*Game 5: Monday, Aug. 31
*Game 6: Wednesday, Sept. 2
*Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 3
“When they have opportunities, they try to score,” Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov said of the Islanders. “I think we just got to play our game. Keep playing fast. Control the puck and not give them any chances to score.”
New York beat the Flyers in all three meetings during the regular season, including one game in a shootout when they erased a 3-0 third-period deficit at the Wells Fargo Center. But they’ve met only once since mid-November.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, who on Friday tied Peter Laviolette for 13th all-time in postseason coaching wins (75), has been going against Islanders coach Barry Trotz for most of the last 20 years. Trotz got his Stanley Cup two years ago with Washington. Vigneault is still hard after his first.
“This was a tough series in the sense that everyone predicted that we were the favorites, weren’t giving Montreal a lot of credit,” Vigneault said. “So we had to play through a lot of things mentally.”
If he was trying to pull the underdog card, forget it. DraftKings opened the top-seeded Flyers favored at around minus-140 for the series.
The Flyers didn’t necessarily beat Montreal as much as they survived. Many of their big guns didn’t fire, but their kids gained great experience. You have to learn how to win in the playoffs, Vigneault said.
The Flyers have met and conquered challenges all year. Now they get the sixth-seeded Islanders in a playoff series for the first time in 33 years.