It had been 8 years, 3 months and 23 days since the Flyers last played an overtime game in the playoffs. Phil Myers was a 15-year-old about to start his rookie year of Midget League hockey for Moncton in New Brunswick.
On Wednesday, Myers, now an NHL rookie, scored the biggest goal of his life.
When Myers’ drive from the point deflected in past Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, it not only tied this Eastern Conference semifinal series, but it also touched off a celebration that was part joy, part relief.
Myers made a few fine defensive plays and hit the post with six minutes left and the Flyers hanging on to a one-goal lead. He was +17 during the regular season, and is now +7 here in the postseason. It’ll be fascinating to see what this goal does for his confidence.
This is the second of three newsletters this week. We’re bumping up our Flyers coverage and sending one out Friday morning. If you like what you’re reading, tell some friends it’s free to sign up here. We want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send feedback by email or, more preferably, on Twitter (@EdBarkowitz). Thank you for reading.
— Ed Barkowitz (email@example.com)
It was a remarkable and historic day in sports on Wednesday for what happened off the field of play.
The NBA postponed its three playoff games after players, led by the Milwaukee Bucks, boycotted as a form of protest of social injustice in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.
Major League Baseball, the WNBA and MLS had similar protests. The NHL did not.
These developments took place after the Flyers and Islanders had already taken the ice, so most were unsure of the specifics of the day. The later games — Tampa Bay-Boston, Colorado-Dallas — went on amid criticism that they should have been postponed in solidarity.
When asked if NHL players and/or the Islanders were having similar discussions about boycotting, New York captain Anders Lee said, “I think those conversations are going on.”
“I literally found out about it walking over here [to the postgame press conference],” Lee said. “It’s something we’re going to have to look into. Obviously, there’s a lot of things going on in this world that are unjust; a lot of inequality happening. The NBA and those players are standing up for what they believe in. I think it’s great what they’re doing.”
Among the most stinging criticism came from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, a board member of the recently formed Hockey Diversity Alliance.
“I hope guys find it in them to stand up,” he told Vancouver radio station Sportsnet 650. “You can’t keep coming to the minority players every time there’s a situation like this. The white players in our league need to have answers for what they’re seeing in society right now and where they stand.”
The Flyers-Islanders (7 p.m.) and Vegas-Vancouver (9:45 p.m.) are the two NHL games on Thursday’s schedule.
“There’s a lot of good people in hockey,” Dumba continued. “But the silence is as bad as the violence. You have to step out, really hear people’s stories, have that empathy and understanding of where they’re coming from and why we’re doing what we’re doing right now.”
A reporter last week put a stick in the Twitter hornet’s nest for having the temerity to question whether Flyers coach Alain Vigneault would start Carter Hart on both ends of back-to-back games late in the Montreal series.
OK, it was me.
The Flyers had a chance to close out the Canadiens, so I agreed with Vigneault’s decision to start the kid in both Games 4 and 5. Hart, coming off consecutive shutouts, wasn’t the reason the Flyers lost Game 5, but he wasn’t sharp, either. In fact, he almost got pulled, but the coach changed his mind.
After Wednesday’s thrilling overtime win tied the series with the Islanders, Vigneault is facing the same dilemma he had last week. Go with Hart back-to-back or give backup Brian Elliott Game 3?
Vigneault on Wednesday moved past Peter Laviolette and is now 13th all-time in playoff wins. He also moved into the top 10 by coaching his 150th postseason game. He doesn’t need my help.
But I’d play Elliott.
Hart was a rock for most of Game 2 as the Islanders fired 11 shots in the second period and 15 more in the third. The Jean-Gabriel Pageau goal that sent it to overtime was virtually on a tee. A sniper with Pageau’s skill is going to beat the goalie more often than not from that point on the ice.
Still, I’d give Hart tonight off.
The Islanders have controlled play for five of the six regulation periods, pressing the Flyers with a relentless forecheck and grinding cycling. Myers’ overtime winner in Game 2 gives the Flyers a little breathing room. I say give the most important Flyer — Hart — a night off to catch his breath.
And if Elliott’s not up to the task, put Hart in there to spark a rally.
Thursday, Aug. 27: Game 3, at N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 29: Game 4, at N.Y. Islanders, noon (NBC)
Monday, Aug. 31: Game 5, at Flyers, time/TV TBD
*Wednesday, Sept. 2: Game 6, at N.Y. Islanders, time/TV TBD
*Thursday, Sept. 3: Game 7, at Flyers, time/TV TBD
Sunday, Aug. 23: Game 1, Boston, 3-2 (Marchand GWG)
Tuesday, Aug. 25: Game 2, Tampa Bay, 4-3 (OT, Palat GWG)
Wednesday, Aug. 26: Game 3, Tampa Bay, 7-1 (Gourde GWG)
Friday, Aug. 28: Game 4, at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. (USA Network)
Sunday, Aug. 30: Game 5, at Boston, 8 p.m. (NBC)
*Tuesday, Sept. 1: Game 6, at Tampa Bay, time/TV TBA
*Wednesday, Sept. 2: Game 7, at Boston, time/TV TBA
*If necessary. ... All games in Toronto. ... Listed home teams have last line change during stoppages. ... NBC playoff schedule here.
AV has been a good motivator with this team so far as I can tell. He’s also created a culture of accountability that hasn’t been here for years. JVR/Ghost sitting was never a shock. Laughton sitting [in Game 2] is a message. He’s well-liked in that locker room and among coaching staff.
— via Twitter from Jared @JBPhi