After beating Canadiens in six games, the Flyers are off to the Eastern Conference's second round for another best-of-seven series. Things kick off Monday against the Islanders at 7 p.m. ET.
Since the Flyers entered the Toronto bubble, they have been just about unstoppable, posting a 7-2-0 record through the round robin and first round. Their strength in how they respond after losing a game will prove to be important if they want to be in this for a long stretch. But, for now, we look at what's directly in front of the Flyers.
With Game 1 just hours away, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall touch on one thing the Flyers need to keep from the first round and one thing that needs to change.
One thing that constantly impressed me throughout the Flyers-Canadiens series was the effort put forth by the defensemen, more specifically the younger players. There was a lot of weariness leading up to the playoffs, mainly because of the inexperienced players like Philippe Myers, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim when it comes to postseason play. Between the three of them, Provorov had the most playoff games under his belt with six (2018 first-round series loss against the Penguins).
Concern at the start of things was valid - but that's already a thing of the past. Let's take a look at some numbers from the six games against the Canadiens:
Myers: one goal, averaged 18:16 TOI
Provorov: one goal, two assists, averaged 25:14 TOI
Sanheim: two assists, averaged 20:27 TOI
The three of them have proved to be assets and adapted to every situation thrown at them. For little to no playoff experience, you can't really ask for more of them.
On the other side of it all, I often caught myself watching most games and being completely in awe with how the Canadiens controlled play. No matter the situation, whether the Flyers were on the power play, penalty kill or even at 5-on-5, they always looked outnumbered. The Flyers honed in on the talent spread across their team in the regular season to drive play. There was very little of that in the first round. Ultimately, the better team did win, but as the push gets even tighter with each passing game, there is marginal room for error.
If the Flyers find a way to take charge in the neutral zone, be aggressive with the puck and not get too fancy with things, they should be in great shape.
I thought that Flyers played defensively sound in the first-round series. With the exception of the two losses in which they allowed 10 goals, I still was impressed with the resiliency of the forwards and defensemen throwing themselves in front of shots (especially heavy shots from Shea Weber), as well as the way they kept Montreal to the perimeter in their offensive zone. I also liked what I saw from Carter Hart. There was hope and trust in him already going into this series, but seeing the way he battled, especially after losses, was impressive.
What I hope changes: Goal production and the power play.
There was one point of the series (going into Game 5) in which the Flyers had scored only five total goals. They went on to score a total of 11 after Game 6; I don't think that's good enough for the next round. I want to see more depth players find the back of the net as well as the top regular-season scorers (Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk). Next would be the power play. The Flyers were 4 for 28 (14.3 percent) on the man advantage during the series with Montreal; I'd like to see those numbers improve in the next round.
Looking at how the Flyers' series with Montreal played out, the thing that stuck out to me that I liked was the Flyers' ability to win close games. The Flyers won the low-scoring, close games, and were able to hold leads in those games. With Barry Trotz at the Islanders' helm, you can bet that there will be similar games in the upcoming second-round series. The Islanders are a team void of a superstar with the exception of maybe Mathew Barzal, so they play a tight defensive style, so it's definitely a positive that the Flyers had to play low-scoring, tightly-contested games in the first round.
One thing I would like to change in the second round: I would like to see the Flyers play a tougher style. I think during long stretches in the series with Montreal, the Flyers got pushed around and allowed the Canadiens to dictate play. Hart bailed the Flyers out, and sometimes that's just how it goes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs - your goalie has to steal a game from time to time. I think the Flyers need to start games better, and not allow the opponent to dictate play. Additionally, when getting momentum, like a two-goal lead, try to seize it rather than surrender it like they did on a number of occasions against Montreal.
Depth and balance are essential to Alain Vigneault's hard-on-attack, north-south system. So far in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament, the Flyers have received great depth contributions in the goal-production department.
If they continue to get goals from up and down their lineup, they should be in every game.
Here are the Flyers' goal-scorers in the playoffs:
Jakub Voracek - 4
Joel Farabee - 3
Michael Raffl - 3
Scott Laughton - 3
Philippe Myers - 2
Nicolas Aube-Kubel - 2
Nate Thompson - 1
Tyler Pitlick - 1
Ivan Provorov - 1
Kevin Hayes - 1
Travis Sanheim - 1
Only one of those players (Hayes) was among the Flyers' top five in goals during the regular season, and only four of those players had double-digit markers (Hayes, Laughton, Provorov, Voracek).
Keep the secondary scoring humming.
Of course, though, it's fair to wonder if the Flyers are playing with fire a bit by relying so much on their second wave and not riding the first. The Flyers' big boys can absolutely do more and will have to do more as the opponents get better in the playoffs.
Most notably, it would be great from the Flyers' overall standpoint to see Konecny start lighting the lamp. His energy and playmaking are infectious. With the 23-year-old All-Star having three assists and no goals through nine tournament games, we haven't seen that vintage Konecny yet.
"I'm trying to contribute in other ways," Konecny said Sunday in a video interview. "There are lots of ways to win a hockey game; it doesn't just involve points and scoring. But I'm aware I've got to step up a little bit more."
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