Flyers

Flyers' comeback falls short in Game 7 as turnaround 2019-20 season comes to halt

Flyers

There was no more overtime magic or Sean Couturier flying through with a cape and carrying the Flyers to Edmonton, Alberta.

While Couturier returned from an undisclosed injury to try and help his team to a Game 7 win, the Flyers' series comeback bid fell short with a thud in a 4-0 loss to the Islanders on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

The Flyers trailed the best-of-seven second-round playoff series 3-1 but picked up an overtime victory in Game 5 and a double-overtime win in Game 6 (without Couturier) to force the all-important Game 7.

Alain Vigneault's club was shut out 4-0 in Game 1, as well. The Flyers are 1-18 all-time in best-of-seven series when trailing 3-1. Vigneault has twice overcome a 3-1 deficit but couldn't pull off a third.

The Islanders are headed to the Conference Final for the first time since 1993. They will play the Lightning.

The Flyers have not been to the East Final since 2010, when they made their last Stanley Cup Final appearance.

• In order to save their season, the Flyers had to play their hardest and best hockey with little to no room for error over three straight games.

That is not easy to accomplish against a forecheck-oriented, crush-your-mistake team like the Islanders. It can also be taxing both physically and mentally.

The Flyers didn't have a terrible start to Game 7, but about midway through the opening frame, they looked slower to pucks and not as strong in battles. You wonder if the pressure and three combined overtimes in Games 5 and 6 caught up to them a bit.

 

Scott Mayfield and Andy Greene gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead in the first period. Mayfield scored on a filthy shot, while Greene's goal came off a patient and impressive play by Derick Brassard, which had Carter Hart sprawling.

It was the first time the Flyers had been outscored in the first period since Game 1 of this series. Brutal time to have a so-so first period. The Islanders are tough to play against when you have to press and rally.

• The real dagger was delivered in the second period.

Claude Giroux had a turnover and Ivan Provorov fell on his pinch, which led to an odd-man rush and 3-0 goal by Brock Nelson, who had four markers in the series.

During the regular season, the Islanders went 31-3-5 when they scored three or more goals.

• As sour as the conclusion was for the Flyers, the 2019-20 season was meritorious in many ways. Under new leadership, the Flyers looked like a different team — and one that is contending again.

In the 2018-19 season, the Flyers fired their general manager, head coach, an assistant general manager, an assistant coach and finished with 82 points, their fewest over a full campaign since 2006-07.

This season, the club's new head coach has been named a Jack Adams Award finalist, the team went into the first round as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed for the first time since 2000, won its first playoff series since 2012 and finished with 89 points during the regular season despite playing only 69 games because of the stoppage.

That type of a turnaround in one season should not be lost on fans.

And there’s no reason to not like the outlook ahead. All in all, a promising, stepping-stone season.

More: Should Flyers fans be disappointed, excited or both?

• The Islanders, who have been awfully impressive all playoffs, were ultimately the better team, at least in this series. But given they won seven of 10 games against the Flyers, including three regular-season matchups, it sure looked like the Islanders were a bad matchup stylistically for Vigneault's group.

The Flyers shouldn't have to really hang their heads, though. New York eliminated the Panthers in the qualifying round and the Capitals in the first round, losing only once to each team. Washington scored the NHL's second-most goals per game (3.42) during the regular season and Florida put up the league's sixth most (3.30), but New York held those two to a combined 1.67 per game.

Overall, the Islanders have outscored the opposition 54-31. It's a structured, well-coached, quick-strike team.

Ultimately, the Flyers made some costly mishaps earlier in the series and took too long to find their goal-scoring punch. A team that finished seventh in the NHL with 3.29 goals per game during the regular season at one point had only 18 goals in 10 games over the first and second rounds (1.80 per game).

 

The Flyers were able to put up nine goals in Games 5 and 6 of this series. They had only seven in the first four games. Compound that with ill-timed breakdowns and the Flyers found themselves in a 3-1 series deficit.

• The Flyers did not have a top-40 goal scorer or top-30 point producer in the regular season. Balanced production and forward lines accentuated Vigneault's system, but at this juncture of the playoffs, the Flyers simply needed more from their top producers.

In his first season on a new six-year, $33 million deal signed at the beginning of training camp last September, Travis Konecny took a huge stride during 2019-20. The 2015 first-round pick went to his first All-Star Game, led the Flyers in goals (24) and set career highs in assists (37) and points (61).

The next step in his climb to being on another tier is production in the postseason. The best of the best do it in the playoffs. This was his first extended postseason run of his career and he finished with no goals through 16 games.

He'll certainly remember that zero. He's only 23. Patience can be good here.

• Not everything falls on Konecny.

Giroux had one goal through the tournament, Couturier had two, James van Riemsdyk had two (both of which came in Games 5 and 6 against the Islanders) and Jakub Voracek had one point in the series following a seven-point outburst against the Canadiens.

Matt Niskanen and Provorov turned it up in Games 5 and 6 but were inconsistent throughout the series. The entire group of defensemen was OK.

• Following his 49-save performance in the Game 6 double-overtime win, Hart made 22 saves on 25 shots.

New York's fourth goal was an empty-netter.

The 22-year-old was a major positive in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs. The future is bright in net for the Flyers.

The Islanders went with Thomas Greiss instead of Semyon Varlamov, who allowed nine goals over Games 5 and 6.

Greiss made 16 saves for the shutout.

The Flyers' 16 shots in Game 7 were their second fewest of the 2019-20 campaign (regular season and playoffs).

• The Flyers' power play went 4 for 52 in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

The man advantage did not score a goal in this series.

It was costly and something that assistant coach Michel Therrien and company will have to address going into 2020-21.

• After missing Game 6 with an undisclosed injury, Couturier returned for Game 7.

The Selke Trophy finalist brings a quiet toughness; he was forced to miss Game 4 in the team's 2018 first-round series against the Penguins, then returned for Games 5 and 6, playing on a torn MCL.

Following Game 7, Couturier said his current injury is a sprained MCL.

Oskar Lindblom remained in the lineup for Game 7. Joel Farabee (undisclosed injury) missed his second straight game, while Derek Grant was scratched. 

Here’s how the Flyers looked at forward:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny

 

James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Tyler Pitlick

Oskar Lindblom-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

• Next week, the NHL will announce the winners of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Monday), the Jack Adams Award (Wednesday) and the Frank J. Selke Trophy (Thursday).

Lindblom is a finalist for the Masterton, Vigneault for the Jack Adams and Couturier for the Selke.

• The offseason begins for the Flyers.

The club has nine players slated to hit free agency — Brian Elliott (unrestricted), Justin Braun (unrestricted), Tyler Pitlick (unrestricted), Grant (unrestricted), Nate Thompson (unrestricted), Robert Hagg (restricted), Philippe Myers (restricted), Nicolas Aube-Kubel (restricted) and Nolan Patrick (restricted).

The Flyers have seven picks in the 2020 NHL draft, which is scheduled for Oct. 9-10.