5 Things: Flyers vs. Islanders

5 Things: Flyers vs. Islanders
5 Things: Flyers vs. Islanders
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Needing to end a four-game losing streak, John Tortorella’s Philadelphia Flyers (36-29-10) will host Patrick Roy’s New York Islanders (31-27-15) on Monday night. Game time at Wells Fargo Center is 7:00 pm EDT.

The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast is on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7.

This is the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams, and the lone game in Philadelphia. He Nov. 22 in Elmont, the Flyers lost to New York by a 3-2 score as comeback bids from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits fell one goal short. Three nights later, Samuel Ersson and Ilya Sorokin dueled to a 0-0 tie through regulation and overtime. The Flyers prevailed in a four-round shootout, 1-0, with Tyson Foerster netting the lone successful attempt for either side.

The Flyers and Islanders are both struggling of late. The Flyers have lost four straight games in regulation, including a 5-1 defeat on home ice at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday evening. The Flyers are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and have dropped from guaranteed playoff position (third place in the Metropolitan Division) into the lower wildcard spot. The Islanders, 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, are coming off a 4-1 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

1. Fighting the Fatigue

Dating back to March 1, this will be the Flyers’ 16th game in 32 nights and the sixth game in the last 10 nights. Following tonight, the Flyers will be able to get some desperately needed time to rest, recover and get in a little bit of practice with open nights on the schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The Islanders had a light schedule early in March. However, after a California road trip (March 7 to 11), the schedule became jam-packed when the Islanders returned east. From March 14 to 30, the club played nine games in 17 nights, including a pair of three-in-four gauntlets.

The effects on both teams were somewhat predictable: the Flyers and Islanders each progressively wore down as the month unfolded.

After the Flyers played pretty well in a seven-game gauntlet of consecutive games against the top teams in the Eastern Conference, they struggled in Montreal and struggled even more at home against Chicago. Energy was low with unmistakable signs of physical fatigue (the “skating in sand” effect. slow starts, etc.), mental fatigue (uncharacteristic fundamental mistakes from certain players) and emotional fatigue (looking disconnected and flat in high-stakes matches).

After Saturday’s loss to Chicago, which Tortorella called “rock bottom”, the Flyers’ head coach noted that the entire team seemed to be on fumes. He mentioned in particular players who’ve been logging very heavy ice-time on a nightly basis, especially Cam York and Travis Sanheim.

The Flyers will get no sympathy from the Islanders because they’re in the very same boat and the Isles came from a more disadvantageous starting place entering March. Beyond only winning two of their last 10 games, the Islanders have been shut out three times in that span, held to one goal twice and scored two goals once.

On Monday, the team that plays the simpler, smarter, more disciplined game — and, it should go without saying, receives the better goaltending — will be the one who skates off with two coveted points.

2. Shot Suppression

Dating back to the Flyers vs. Islanders playoff clash in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinal — and perhaps even earlier to when former Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz changed their team culture for the better — the Flyers have often been frustrated by struggles, getting shots blocked with frequency against the Isles . Even now, being a very good shot-blocking team remains a central part of the Islanders’ team identity.

Since Tortorella became the Flyers’ head coach last season, Philadelphia has also put a heavy re-emphasis on shot blocking. Everyone is expected to contribute in that regard.

Entering Monday’s game, the top five shot blocking teams across the NHL (blocks per 60 minutes) are as follows: Vegas 18.44, San Jose 18.26, Islanders 18.25, Flyers 18.24, Montreal 17.47.

Moreover, the Flyers will go into Monday’s game allowing the second-fewest average opposing shots on goal per game (27.4) across the NHL while generating the third most of their own (33.2). These are strong indicators of a generally sound process and structure.

Lately, the Flyers have held some very good opponents — including the likes of Boston, Florida and the Rangers — to minimal volumes of shots on goal. The results haven’t always been, though. This is partially because the Flyers’ goal-scoring is too often erratic. It’s also because the Flyers’ goaltending and special teams have both struggled over the last month.

3. Flyers power play vs. Islanders PK

As noted in “Five Things” before the Chicago match, when the season draws close to the end, full-season rankings take on less importance on a game-to-game basis than what’s been going on lately.

For the first time all season, the Flyers are currently having a hard time on both ends of special teams. Before that, the club struggled mightily on the power play through long stretches, but the penalty killing was stellar.

We’ll look at the power play first. In the month of March, despite a couple of short spells where things seemed to finally be trending the right way, the Flyers power play was at 13.0 percent (6-for-46) over the 15-game schedule. That is identical to the season-long totals (13.0 percent, 31-for-238, ranked last in the NHL).

The Islanders’ penalty kill has been a weak point overall this season (71.7 percent, ranked last in the NHL). For the month of March as a whole, there was a slight improvement (74.1 percent, ranked 27th). However, the uptick was mostly reflective of the early part of the month when the Islanders were playing better. Over the last 10 games, the team is 71.4 percent (15-for-21) on the PK.

4. Flyers PK vs. Islanders Power Play

The Flyers’ full-season penalty kill ranks third leaguewide at 83.3 percent. The team still leads the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals scored: five by Travis Konecny, three by Ryan Poehling, two by Scott Laughton, two by ex-Flyers defenseman Sean Walker (now with Colorado), and one apiece by Garnet Hathaway, Foerster, and Sanheim.

Lately, though, the Flyers have hit a rut and have struggled to get themselves back on track. Over the last dozen games, Philly’s PK is mired in a 64.5 percent funk (opposing power plays are 11-for-31, ranking the team 31st over its last 12 games).

After Saturday’s game, Nick Seeler (back in the lineup after an 11-game injury absence) and Travis Sanheim noted that, when things were going well, the Flyers featured a high-pressure PK. Even apart from a high volume of shot blocking, the Flyers consistently had sticks in the passing lanes and created an elite volume of counterattacking opportunities.

As the March hiccup turned into a full-fledged slump, the Flyers’ PK became noticeably less aggressive in strong-side pressure. There was more passivity and more cross-seam passes found their way through to open teammates. Additionally, there were more second-chance opportunities.

The Islanders’ power play, for the 2023-24 season as a whole, ranks 20th (20.2 percent, 42-for-208, two shorthanded goals yielded).

However, in March overall, the Islanders fared worse than the Flyers, scoring just five times on 43 power play opportunities (11.6 percent). Looking over the last 10 games, New York has stumbled to 2-for-33 (6.1 percent, last in the NHL).

5. Behind Enemy Lines: New York Islanders

The Islanders, like the Flyers, had a much-needed off day on Sunday. Monday’s game is the final one in a three-game road trip. On Tuesday, the Islanders will be back home to host Chicago.

In Saturday’s loss in Tampa, Semyon Varlamov stopped 36 of 39 shots. He’s started back-to-back games. According to the Islanders’ official website, Varlamov has not started three straight games in two calendar years. However, Ilya Sorokin is winless in his last six starts. Varlamov and Sorokin will likely split the back-to-back set with the Flyers and Blackhawks, but the order is unclear.

In recent years, the Flyers haven’t had much success against either Russian netminder. That’s especially true with Sorokin, who is 9-2-2 in 13 career starts against Philly with a 1.50 GAA, .949 save percentage and three shutouts.

Last game, the Islanders did some large scale line combination juggling as the night progressed. Bo Horvat moved to a line with JG Pageau in the middle and veteran team captain Anders Lee on the other wing. Mathew Barzal started the game with Lee and Hudson Fasching before veteran Casey Cizikas replaced Lee on the line. Brock Nelson started the game centering Kyle Palmieri and Cizikas before Pierre Engvall replaced Cizikas in the combination.

For the season, Barzal leads the Islanders with 74 points (23g, 51a) in 72 games played. He’s followed by defenseman Noah Dobson (8g, 58a, 66 points), Horvat (29g, 34a, 63 points), Nelson (29g, 31a, 60 points), Palmieri (24g, 19a, 43 points) and Lee (18g, 14a , 32 points).

The article is in Czech

Tags: Flyers Islanders

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