NHL playoffs Flyers vs. Islanders: Previewing possible 1st-round matchup


Leading up to the Flyers' Aug. 2 round-robin opener — which officially commences the team's run at the 2020 Stanley Cup in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament — we're going to break down every possible first-round matchup for the club.

Today, we look at the seventh-seeded Islanders.

Flyers by the numbers

Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)

Islanders by the numbers

Goals per game: 2.78 (22nd overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.79 (ninth fewest)
Power play percentage: 17.3 (tied for 24th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 80.7 (15th overall)

How they could meet

There are a few ways that these two teams can meet in the first round:

• The Islanders are currently the seventh seed heading into this play-in round and are set to face the Panthers. If they beat Florida, in order for them to meet the Flyers, the two lowest seeds (Canadiens and Rangers) would have to win; this scenario would work if the Flyers remained in that fourth seed following the round-robin tournament.

• If the Penguins, Hurricanes and Islanders all advance past the best-of-five qualifying round, the Flyers would need to find themselves second overall in order for the two to see each other. 

• The Penguins or Hurricanes would need to lose their series and the Flyers move up one slot in the round robin.

Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers

The Flyers only saw the Islanders three out of the four times they were supposed to this season, the last game being slated for March 24, just 12 days after the league was indefinitely put on pause amid the coronavirus outbreak. Those three times they did see each other, though, leaned highly in favor of the Islanders as they won every contest, though the Flyers did scrounge up a point in one because of going to overtime. 

That overtime loss was a bad one that came early on in the season (Nov. 16) — as the Flyers went into the third period with a three-goal lead. It should’ve been a win, but they came short of it. 

The other two times they played one another, the Islanders found a way to score five goals each game. Carter Hart was pulled in one and Brian Elliott struggled the entirety of the latter game. For two goaltenders who have found great success as the season progressed, they always seemed to struggle against the Islanders. 

Could the Islanders be the Flyers’ kryptonite? 

Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers

While there were times that the Flyers did struggle, there were a few players that found a way to produce against the Islanders — Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier being two of the most important. 

There’s no telling how strong of a playoff run Konecny is about to have. This will be only the second time in his career in which he has the chance to help push his team to the Stanley Cup Final — his first coming in his sophomore season. The time, and more importantly, the growth that has come in between these chances is what could very well be a deciding factor in this series — especially given the success he had against the Islanders during the regular season. Two of his 24 goals came against the Islanders and knowing it’s a division rival would certainly elevate the level of intensity.

Now more than ever, Konecny has the chance to prove himself as one of the key pieces to the Flyers. He led the team in points (61), has been a pest for other teams to play against — now it’s time to see how it translates to the playoffs. 

If the league still doubts Couturier and needs to see what he’s made of, it’s going to be during this playoff run. The new dad and Selke Trophy finalist has a lot to play for — but the fact he had a solid performance against the Islanders all season adds to that hype — if the two teams were to meet, of course. 

Granted, his performance throughout the entirety of the season was more than impressive, but even as teammates struggled against this one particular team — he found success. And just like Konecny, Couturier has added motivation from the previous time he saw the playoffs. 

Couturier’s MCL injury in 2018 when the Flyers played the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs was a blow to the team — or at least that’s what one would typically think. Instead, he played through his injury in Game 6 and managed to pull off a hat trick. Even though the Flyers lost the game and series — that performance embodies the type of player Couturier is. 

In a one-of-a-kind postseason, imagine what a healthy Couturier will be capable of? Other teams should be scared. 

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