Flyers, Islanders say regular-season results don’t mean much for playoffs

Carter Hart
      How one team performs against another in the regular season really doesn’t matter much when the two meet again in the playoffs.
      If you throw in a once-in-a-century pandemic, it probably amounts to nothing.
      Such might be the case when the Flyers, who dropped all three regular-season games to the New York Islanders, get a chance to prove that theory right in their upcoming postseason matchup.
      The best-of-seven second-round series gets underway Monday, 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
      Only one of those aforementioned matches took place in the 2020 calendar year, so the familiarity/contempt factor might not be too prevalent.
      As Islanders coach Barry Trotz puts it, what happened in the past is simply history.
      “It has no bearing on where we are right now,” Trotz said in a Zoom call from Toronto. “It seems like it’s years ago since we played them. We played them pretty early in the season last year. It just feels like forever.
      “So I don’t think it has any bearing at all. There’s two pretty good teams that are going to square off. What you’re doing now really matters. What you did before has zero bearing on the effect of these games.”
      All three regular-season meetings were somewhat high-scoring affairs, with New York winning 5-3 in October, 4-3 in November and 5-3 in February.
      Given the way Flyers goaltender Carter Hart allowed Montreal less than two goals per game in Philadelphia’s first-round triumph and the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov stopped Washington cold in a five-game romp, goals in this series should come at a premium.
      Of the 37 goalies to compete in the postseason so far, Varlamov ranks No. 1 with a 7-2 record, 1.67 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
      Hart stands No. 3 with a 6-2 mark, a 1.71 GAA and .943 SP.
      Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher says he expects a highly contested competition, partly because the two Metro Division rivals know each other so well.
      “I think familiarity is certainly part of it,’’ Fletcher said. “I think the key is how you continue to adapt, evolve and get your game going. We have four games in five and half days starting Monday, so there’s not a lot of practice time. You are going to have to come in with the right mindset and make quick adjustments. Get your game to a high level very quickly.’’
      Besides all that, the Flyers really didn’t kick their game into gear until late February, when a nine-game winning streak vaulted them to within one point of Washington for the Metro lead before the pandemic hit on March 11.
      “This has been incredible hockey,’’ Fletcher said of the playoffs. “I think you have to give all these players a lot of credit, taking four months off, a four-month pause.
“I think everybody’s a little different than what they were before the pause. Teams are different. We have seen teams that have played much better here than they were playing before the pause.’’
      The Islanders are coming in with a lot of momentum. They quickly dispatched the Florida Panthers in the play-in round, then did a good job stifling Alexander Ovechkin’s crew after that.
      “They’re a great team,’’ the Flyers’ Kevin Hayes said. “There’s a reason why they won so quickly against the Capitals. They got a good goalie and play great team defense. They got some good forwards.  I’m pretty sure we’ll go watch some film and prepare the best we can for the games.’’
      Trotz led the Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup so he’s obviously a man with a plan. Plus, the Isles have hockey mastermind Lou Lamoriello running the ship and any Devils fan can tell you all about his knowledge of the game.
      “They play tight,’’ Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “Good defensively. When they have opportunities, they try to score. I think we just got to play our game. Keep playing fast. Control the puck and not give them any chances to score.’’
      Even with star player John Tavares off to Toronto a couple years ago, the Islanders have a formidable offense, including captain Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Matthew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
      Lee has a lot of respect for the Flyers.
      “Obviously [they’re] a team that’s playing really good hockey right now, earned that No. 1 spot in the play-in round (round-robin version),’’ Lee said. “And then had a pretty good series, so another tough matchup for us, another tough task at hand.”
“Looking back at those [regular-season] games, we’ll be able to look at them a little bit but it’s a long time ago. It’s in the past. Both teams are in different places in their play and obviously this situation’s completely different. So we can look at it for tendencies, but I don’t think [we’ll be] looking at too much of how the turnout was and taking it from there.”
      This will mark just the fourth time the teams have met in the playoffs with the Flyers holding a 3-1 edge.
      Of course, that one loss took place in 1980, when the Islanders used the infamous Leon Stickle blown offsides call in Game 6 to win their first Stanley Cup.
      The two clubs haven’t played each other in the postseason since 1987, when the Flyers prevailed, went on to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to Edmonton in Game 7.
About Wayne Fish 1449 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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