Well, it’s over. The Flyers return to the ice following four and a half months of a pause due to the pandemic that started with such promise has now come to an end at the hands of the New York Islanders in what was a grueling seven-game series.
After back-to-back overtime wins to force Game 7, the Islanders simply had it in this game. They survived a push in the opening minutes by the Flyers, then took over, getting a goal on their second shot of the game and never looked back.
The Flyers never had the answers. They could never counter the Islanders desire to finish this series. So it goes in the playoffs sometimes.
Make no mistake, it’s disappointing, and this loss stings knowing the season is over, but there is a lot to take from this season. For now, let’s take a closer look at the game that did the Flyers in.
Here are 5 takeaways from Game 7 of Flyers-Islanders.
1. A Good Start Wasted
It may not seem like it with the final score, but the Flyers got off to a good start in this game. They had four of the first five shots. They had the better of possession. They had a glorious opportunity early on.
Just seconds into the game, a centering pass from Sean Couturier was tipped by Jake Voracek and glided off the post. If that had gone in, perhaps this game goes a lot differently.
Instead, the Flyers let that start go by the wayside, capped off with another power play that ended without a goal, and the Islanders took control from there.
2. Islanders Strike First
The Islanders got the all-important first goal of the game, and scored again in pretty short order after. Both goals came from defensive breakdowns.
Scott Mayfield is left with way too much room to move in before letting go a shot. He picks his spot, as Carter Hart takes an angle that leaves a lot of space near the far post, and finds it. Credit to the shooter. On the second goal, same thing. Brock Nelson draws three Flyers to him, then gets the puck to Derick Brassard. Brassard then draws the attention of...well, everyone. The Flyers get caught puck watching, Andy Greene sneaks down and Brassard finds him. Greene has a wide open net.
Those two goals, coming in short order after the Flyers had gotten off to a solid start, seemed to sink the Flyers right then and there. It already felt over, like the Islanders had not only weathered a bit of an early storm, but found a way to become the more desperate team almost immediately after. As the tide shifted, that was seemingly it for the Flyers.
3. Lack of Shot Volume
Look, there are two ways to look at this game and I think both came out. The Flyers were not the better team throughout this series and it showed. Why? This team struggled to get shots on net and struggled to take advantage of power-play opportunities.
In the decisive Game 7, the Flyers took 16 shots on goal. More than halfway through, they had just seven. That’s not going to be good enough and for most of the game, you are hanging on for dear life.
Perhaps the only difference is that the Flyers weren’t even really in the game at that point. They entered the third period down 3-0, needing three goals to tie it up, after playing the middle 20 minutes by taking just three shots on goal. No matter how you spin it, that won’t get it done.
It’s a disappointing effort from a team that looked like they were destined to find a way after overtime wins in Game 5 and Game 6, but with that in mind...
4. Running on Empty
Two nights ago, the Flyers played a double-OT thriller that required an extra 35 minutes of play. 35 minutes. More than half of another game. Add in the 2:41 it took for Phil Myers to score in overtime in Game 2 and the 12:20 that was played before Scott Laughton scored in overtime in Game 5, and you have an extra 50 minutes played.
Essentially, this was an eight-game series. That’s what it took for the Flyers to get to this point.
So yes, this hurts. This stings. It’s disappointing. It’s supposed to be. But the Flyers had to essentially empty the tanks in Game 6 to get it here. And it showed in Game 7.
The Islanders played all those minutes too. But what they did was done with much more ease. It came much more naturally than what the Flyers did. This wasn’t the Flyers game. This wasn’t what they did to be successful in the regular season or the Round Robin. That showed in the first round against Montreal.
So after playing six games of that style in the first round and essentially another seven already before the deciding Game 7, they simply had nothing left.
Sean Couturier was playing with a sprained MCL, the same injury he suffered in 2018. Ivan Provorov took a puck off the kneecap during Game 7. Michael Raffl was out of the lineup earlier in this series due to injury. Oskar Lindblom played the final two games after returning from a battle with cancer.
Don’t question the will of this team. They didn’t quit. They ran out of gas.
5. Just Not Enough
Even when the game hit the third period, the Flyers had moments where they could have scored and maybe made this look better on the scoreboard. They just didn’t have enough to solve Thomas Greiss.
Credit Barry Trotz, who made the move to Greiss, who put the goalie in net who had stolen Game 4, who had nearly stolen Game 2, who was fresh and ready and sharp as ever.
Credit the Islanders too. The better team won this series. And before everyone proclaims that the Islanders have nothing left for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, know that series will be just as much of a battle. The Lightning are far from home free to a Stanley Cup Final berth. The Islanders have a lot of talent, a lot of depth and a lot of poise to get this done.
The Flyers took some tremendous strides this season. They have a lot of young talent. They have a veteran core that really has nothing left to accomplish but playoff success. They finally, finally, have a goaltender. This is not where the ride ends. It’s just where it ends for now.
There will be changes. No team comes back year after year exactly the same. But the Flyers took a huge step in the right direction. Perhaps what hurt them was winning across the board in the Round Robin, starting the playoffs with three straight wins to claim the No. 1 seed and skyrocket expectations. Perhaps that was also the best thing that could have happened to them. Because when it did, the city took notice and this team is back on their radar.
It’s not the ending everybody wanted. But teams rarely make a handful of changes and get the desired result. You have to face some adversity and go through some disappointment. This is disappointing, but the Flyers will be better from all of it.