FFR2 Round 2, Game 2: NYI 3, PHI 4 (OT) - Phil the Shake
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
That's one small step for man, one giant Philippe for Flyer kind.
Give this team an inch, and they'll take it a Myers! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, IN OT, for the first time in the playoffs in eight years, beating the New York Islanders 4-3 to even up their 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinal series at one game apiece.
Ok, let's deal with the elephant in the room. This game shouldn't have gotten anywhere near overtime. For the second time this season, the Flyers blew a 3-0 lead in the back-half of regulation to the Islanders. For the third time this season, they allowed a lead-changing goal to the Islanders in the final 2:30 of the third. New York didn't even need a goalie pull to complete their comeback this afternoon. It was a frustrating collapse, and shouldn't be ignored.
But this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You don't ask how, just how many, and that is a huge first win of this series for the Flyers. A loss today, especially an epic defeat like the one that nearly played out this afternoon, would have been absolutely devastating. With the puck dropping for Game 3 in less than twenty-four hours, the Flyers would have little time to recover from losing all of the momentum in this series. There's a good chance they would be facing a 3-0 series deficit if the Islanders completed the comeback.
Guess what? They didn't. With their backs against the wall, in the horror-movie level tension and kid-like excitement of playoff overtime, the Flyers found a way. Specifically, the big guns that have been so silent and so criticized since Game 1 against Montreal found a way. Sean Couturier was the guy who found Myers at the right point with a nifty bank pass, after nearly ending the game himself seconds prior. Claude Giroux won the face-off that started the whole thing. The Flyers had New York on their heels for the whole OT, all two minutes and forty-one seconds of it, thanks to chances for Coots and Konecny.
But by that point in the game, the Flyers big guns making big plays was hardly a revelation. This was the star-power take-over game the Flyers have been waiting for all playoffs. It started early and often, with Kevin Hayes doing all of the heavy lifting. Hayes has actually had a solid playoffs in terms of creating chances, even being stymied on a breakaway in Game 1. In Game 2, he took the next step and found his finish. After a d-zone draw won by Giroux and transition through the neutral, Hayes took a cross-ice pass and fired an absolute bullet, bar-down over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov, for the Flyers first goal of the series.
It wouldn't take Hollywood long to return for an encore. Less than eight minutes later, an intelligent play by Joel Farabee to push back Isles defender Ryan Pulock freed the puck up for Hayes in a 2-on-1 situation. Hayes scored his second goal of the day more with his head than his hands. He read Varlamov's body language perfectly, sensing the goalie was expecting a cross-crease pass to Nic Aube-Kubel, who was darting backdoor. At the last moment, Hayes changed his angle and flipped the puck underneath Varlamov's shoulder, doubling up the Flyers lead.
If the Hayes goal was all smarts, the Flyers next goal was all skill. It started with another defensive zone clear, this one a flashy tip pass by Claude Giroux from the center ice logo to spring Sean Couturier up the right wing. Coots did a number on New York defenseman Nick Leddy, absolutely breaking the 29-year old's ankles before out-waiting Varlamov and sliding the puck to the back of the net. Barely fifteen minutes into the game and the Flyers had already put up a trio of tallies, chasing Varlamov from the game in the process.
The Islanders' comeback in this game wasn't the mad dash that helped them overcome a 3-0 deficit in Philadelphia back in November. Rather, this was a death by a thousand cuts sort of comeback, as the Isles slowly crept back into the game, gradually gaining control from the Flyers' hands. The downfall started with a delay of game penalty on Jake Voracek. Just 17 seconds into the power-play, which occurred just past the mid-point of the game, Anders Lee boxed out Matt Niskanen in front and tipped home a feed from Mat Barzal, getting the Islanders on the board.
The Islanders had a marginal edge in possession and chances in the second period (and apparently the first as well, despite being outshot 11-7), but they started to explode in the 3rd. It wasn't even that the Flyers were playing bad, just that the Islanders were playing really good. The Islanders generated 1.24 of their 2.78 5-on-5 expected goals in the third period alone. Eventually, something had to give.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the Islanders' second goal is it didn't really involve the defensive breakdown you would expect a team pressuring like that to create. Instead, just a smooth give-and-go between Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier saw the later dart to the goal with a clean shooting lane. The key to this goal was how quickly Beauvillier released it; Hart has to at least consider Beauvillier attempting a high-risk pass to Brock Nelson charging the middle, but more likely, he's still reacting to the pass and trying to get into position to challenge the shooter. Somehow Beauvillier found the perfect sweet spot inside Hart's right arm, cutting the Flyers lead to one with 8:49 to go. Please don't let this go to overtime.
Gut check time. The Flyers played most of the next six minutes pretty well. They even tried to extend the lead, with Phil Myers ringing a one-timer off the rush from the slot right off the crossbar, the first shot to beat Thomas Greiss. The Islanders decided anything we could do, they could do better, with Barzal hitting Lee for a dangerous one-timer in the slot that also clanged off the pipe. Yet the Flyers lead remained in tact with just over two minutes to go, with Philly possessing the puck behind the net, one clear away from forcing the Islanders into a goalie pull where they could perhaps put the game away.
Not only that, but Travis Sanheim, a good puck-mover, was the guy with possession. Sanheim took a look up the boards, and I know he sees Adam Pelech in perfect position to challenge Sean Couturier at the blue-line. I know he's aware that Ivan Provorov is right next to him and could also take a pass. In the worst case scenario, Sanheim is forced to just shoot the puck down the middle of the ice, risking an icing. But at least the Flyers live to see another day in that scenario.
So, out of those three options, which one does Sanheim pick? The nuke up the boards. Yep. Pelech cuts it off, and JG Pageau winds up with the puck right in the slot. The guy the Flyers almost traded for at the deadline with the history of clutch playoff goals (remember his four goal game against AV's Rangers in 2017?) - do I even need to tell you what happens? Top shelf. Tie game.
HOLD UP WAIT A MINUTE! The Flyers are challenging for offside, and it looks like they might have a case. Pelech definitely held the puck in, but on the Islanders' initial entry into the offensive zone, Brock Nelson coasted to the blue-line and may not have touched up before Josh Bailey broke in. The behind the bench angle shows Nelson clearly still in the zone, and though you can't see the puck, Bailey's stick is clearly over the blue-line. Sync that clip up with an overhead angle, and you should be able to correctly overturn the call and return the Flyers' lead. Thankfully, offsides calls in Flyers-Islanders playoff games are always called correctly and in the Flyers' favor, so this one should be no sweat. "After further review, the call on the ice is confirmed, the play is onside."
It's G̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶h̶o̶g̶ ̶D̶a̶y̶ 1981 all over again.
And don't forget that a failed coach's challenge comes with an automatic bench minor for delay of game. With 2:09 to go, the Islanders have a two-minute power-play and a golden opportunity to take this thing in regulation.
Please let this go to overtime.
It did, thankfully. It took Hart making a huge save on a Josh Bailey chance immediately after the neutral-zone face-off, a couple of huge shot blocks, and a short-handed spin-o-rama backhander by Kevin Hayes (that Greiss stopped), but for the first time since May 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers headed to overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As a newer Flyers fan (fandom est. 2014), I'm really in uncharted territory at this point. I've never seen the Flyers play in playoff overtime. I didn't know what to do during the normal length third intermission other than bite my fingernails and pray (which is less uncharted than the whole playoff OT thing). For one, I wasn't sure if the Islanders' momentum would carry over or not. After all, in a first goal wins scenario, anything can happen. I've seen plenty of playoff OT hockey played by other teams; I know that much.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the Flyers come out and start strong in overtime. Travis Konecny ripped a shot into the crest of Greiss just 50 seconds in. The Flyers managed four early shot attempts, with the Islanders settling for a meek one-handed shot by Lee that Hart easily steered aside. A stretch pass moments later from Devon Toews was too hot for Barzal to handle, turning into an icing and an offensive zone draw for the Flyers.
Giroux pulled it away from JG Pageau to the right point. It was rolled along the boards to Couturier in the corner. Coots stepped out and flipped a shot on goal. Chaos ensued. Greiss somehow stymied Jake Voracek in tight, but the puck hopped to Couturier for a great chance. In Round 1 fashion, Couturier somehow skied the puck over the vacant cage, but he did stick with the rebound. Pressured into the corner by Devon Toews, Couturier used the boards to create a passing lane to the right point. The shot was hammered, grazing the stick of Anders Lee in the process. It skipped off the ice once, knuckling about twenty inches off the ground. Greiss quickly pulled his glove up, trying to adjust.
But he didn't pull it up quick enough.
PHIL MYERS, FROM DOWNTOWN, CALLS GAME! The kid avoids the collapse with his first career overtime goal, playoffs or regular season, giving the Flyers desperately needed momentum in the form of a series-tying victory.
Game 2 was all about adjustments. The Flyers found a way to reach the inside of the offensive zone; just look at their second and especially third goals. But they also got something else they lacked in Game 1, something that didn't get the mention it warranted in my second period analysis. You put enough of those perimeter shots on net, especially if you get bodies to the blue paint, and you're gonna score some goals. You probably won't get enough to win a series that way, but when you only need one goal to change the narrative of one, just get it on net - you never know what might happen.
Historically, this win is a bit of a surprise. The Flyers have been a pretty average team in playoff overtime (37-38 all-time), whereas the Islanders usually dominate in this area (35-18 all-time).
In case you're not aware of the 1981 reference, here's the backstory. In Game 5 of that year's Stanley Cup Final, the Islanders led the Flyers three games to one, but the Flyers had a one-goal lead. The Islanders scored a goal to tie the game in the final minutes to tie it, a goal that clearly should have been called offside. Linesman Leon Stickle blew the call, and the Islanders went on to win their second straight Cup in overtime that very night.
Once forty seconds ticked off the clock in the first-period, Semyon Varlamov celebrated a little personal history, passing Billy Smith for the longest playoff shutout streak in Islanders history. The new mark to beat is 150:35. Maybe wait until next year to start that pursuit, Varly.
Myers is the first Flyer to score a playoff OT winner since Danny Briere on April 29, 2012, and the first to score an OT winner in a Flyers playoff game since Alexei Ponikarovsky on May 3, 2012. Carter Hart becomes the first Flyer to win an OT playoff game since Ilya Bryzgalov. Time flies, huh?
Taking that last line to the extreme, Myers is the first Flyers defenseman to score a playoff OT winner since Andy Delmore in Game 3 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Penguins (per NHL PR). The next game was the infamous 5OT epic won by Flyers captain Keith Primeau. In the next, Delmore scored a hat-trick in a blowout Flyers win. And in the next game, the Flyers won and advanced in the series. I'd be down to run it back.
Kevin Hayes didn't exactly enter Philadelphia with the reputation of being a playoff performer (13 points in 40 playoff games with the Rangers and Jets), but he's added that skill to his resume. Hayes put together his first playoff multi-goal game on Wednesday.
The first period was the Flyers' first three-goal playoff period since the third period of Game 2 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Penguins. If you don't want to count periods with empty-netters, it's the Flyers first three-goal period since the second period Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against AV's New York Rangers (Wayne Simmonds scored twice, completing the hat-trick, with an Erik Gustafsson goal in between).
It will be interesting to see who starts in goal for tomorrow's game. Based on Hart's rough performance in Game 5 against Montreal (which was also on the second half of a back-to-back) and the fact the Flyers pulled even in the series, I'd expect Brian Elliott to get the nod. I was surprised to find out this was Thomas Greiss' first games of the playoffs (he did play the 3rd period of the Isles' exhibition game). Since Semyon Varlamov only played 15 minutes today, facing just 10 shots, I'd bet on him getting the nod in Game 3.
1st - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - 2 Goals (2, 3), 57.74% xGF
2nd - Phil Myers (PHI) - OT Winning Goal (3)
3rd - Anthony Beauvillier (NYI) - Goal (7), 62.96% Corsi, 67.76% xGF
Game 3 - 8/27, 7 PM
*Advanced Stats via Naturalstattrick.com