If last night was a Game Seven for a chance to make the Final Four of this long Stanley Cup tournament, someone forgot to tell the Flyers. Following consecutive wins in overtime including the Game Six victory in double overtime, they were miserable from start to finish.
The Islanders took full advantage of their opponent to post an easy 4-0 win in Game Seven to advance to the Conference Finals. It’ll be their first appearance since 1993. An era without internet, Wi-Fi, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even blogs like this one. You get the picture.
How bad were the Flyers? After starting out okay by getting four of the game’s first five shots, they only had five more for a two period total of nine. I know conventional wisdom will say that Alain Vigneault didn’t have his team prepared. That’s a bunch of crap.
While the former Rangers coach has been critiqued in this space and in others, the fault lies with the players. They were awful. I can count on one hand who showed up. Kevin Hayes was among them. He must’ve felt like it was the 2015 nightmare all over again. I am not going to say anymore.
All the Isles had to do was start forechecking the Flyers defense. They folded. The fact that world beaters Scott Mayfield and Andy Greene were left so wide open for easy goals in the first period speaks volumes. It was pathetic. After Mayfield had all night to shoot, he was able to beat Carter Hart far post with a perfect shot. Then Derick Brassard continued his turnaround by passing for Greene, who put home his second of the series into an open net with Hart out of position.
It was clearly obvious to everyone how lethargic the Flyers looked. If there is one thing Vigneault could’ve done to slow down the Isles’ momentum, maybe he should have taken his timeout. I know it was early. AV doesn’t like to do it. He prefers to save it due to the game situation for the latter stages. He looked like he considered it. I don’t know if it would’ve mattered.
Vigneault’s team could do nothing against Barry Trotz’s club. They didn’t panic after blowing a 3-1 series lead. Why would they? They controlled much of the play in the first six games. If not for losing three games in sudden death, this would’ve ended much sooner. The Islanders were the superior team at even strength, power play and discipline. They won most of the battles.
Trotz opted for Thomas Greiss as was suggested in this space. He had such a good Game Four that it wasn’t surprising. Especially after Semyon Varlamov was inconsistent the previous two starts. Greiss didn’t have to do much. It was probably the easiest shutout he’ll ever get. He made 16 saves (seriously).
Michael Dal Colle was also inserted for Leo Komarov. I didn’t get the move. But what do I know. If Trotz wanted his players’ attention, he got it. They played extremely well in front of Greiss. There were no breakdowns. Not any carryover from Game Six.
Even with Vigneault having Sean Couturier available to return and center the top line, it had no impact. Not to say it was his fault. Who knows how healthy he was? But he was back between Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, who was a no show the entire series. He really stunk. At least Giroux showed up in Games 5-6. I don’t know how they can justify Voracek’s salary. What a disappointment. I could care less what he produces during the season.
Travis Konecny never scored one goal in the postseason. He couldn’t do anything last night. Every time Hayes have him the puck, he handled it like a grenade. For a leading scorer who usually is so active, Konecny was hideous throughout. Aside from Hayes, it was the secondary guys like Game Five hero Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick and Nate Thompson who showed up.
Not one Flyers defenseman did anything. Ivan Provorov was miserable. Philippe Myers might actually be their best D. He was a lot more noticeable on both sides of the puck. They gave Hart no support. It was embarrassing.
Once Brock Nelson converted on a odd man rush early in the third, I turned the game off for the equally as lousy Yankees. Talk about underachievers. They might not make the extended playoffs.
I know Vigneault pulled Hart with 6:55 left in regulation. Anthony Beauvillier got the empty netter. I just chuckled. It didn’t matter. His team provided nothing. So, why was that the case? Was it the Isles grinding style which can frustrate opponents into sloppy mistakes? I think so. I don’t think they matched up. I took the Isles for that reason.
Interestingly, none of the three teams that trailed 3-1 were able to complete the comeback. Two teams (Canucks, Flyers) had little left. They were each shutout and barely registered any shots. Strange. At least the Avalanche put up a fight before falling to the Stars in OT. And they had a few key guys out and were down to their third string goalie, Michael Hutchinson.
Nothing about these playoffs makes much sense. You can’t tell me the Islanders didn’t benefit from all the extra time off. When the season paused on March 12, they had lost seven in a row and were out of the playoffs. That grinding style can wear down a team. I’m not sure they would’ve made it if it was a full 82 games. They’re definitely fresh and have executed the game plan well under Trotz, who avenged that tough second round defeat to the Vigneault coached Rangers when he was the Capitals bench boss.
So, your Final Four is set.
Western Conference Final
(3) Dallas Stars versus (1) Vegas Golden Knights
Eastern Conference Final
(6) New York Islanders versus (2) Tampa Bay Lightning
Each series along with the Stanley Cup will be played in Edmonton. The Western match-up gets going later tonight at 8 PM. The Islanders and Lightning start up on Labor Day at 8 PM.