No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
Flyers: 4-2 to win Eastern Conference First Round against No. 8 Montreal Canadiens; 3-0-0 (six points) in Qualifiers round-robin; 41-21-7, .645 points percentage in regular season
Islanders: 4-1 to win Eastern Conference First Round against No. 3 Washington Capitals; 3-1 against No. 10 Florida Panthers in Qualifiers; 35-23-10, .588 points percentage in regular season
Season series: PHI: 0-2-1; NYI: 3-0-0
Game 1 is Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)
The Philadelphia Flyers won a playoff series for the first time since 2012 despite being outscored 13-11 in its six-game win against the Montreal Canadiens. They persevered with timely goals, strong defensive work and outstanding goaltending by Carter Hart, who had a .936 save percentage and two shutouts in six games.
In Game 6 on Friday the Flyers were outshot 33-17 but scored two goals in the first period, including one 28 seconds into the game, and used a strong defensive effort in the third period to close the series.
“I thought it was a good team effort,” forward Kevin Hayes said. “It’s tough to win four games in this series. That was our ultimate goal and we did. I don’t think we care how we do it.”
The Islanders took a 3-0 series lead against the Capitals, and after losing Game 4, got 21 saves from Semyon Varlamov in a 4-0 win in Game 5 on Thursday.
New York allowed eight goals against Washington, three at 5-on-5.
The Flyers are expected to have their full complement of defensemen back after Matt Niskanen was suspended for Game 6 for a cross-check to the head of Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher during the third period of Game 5.
“It’s obviously a team that’s playing really good hockey right now. They earned that No. 1 spot in the play-in round and had a pretty good series,” Islanders forward Anders Lee said. “Another tough matchup for us, another tough task at hand.”
The Islanders won all three games against the Flyers during the regular season, with Varlamov starting two of the games and going 2-0-0 with a .913 save percentage. Forward Mathew Barzal scored five points (two goals, three assists) in three games, including three assists in a 5-3 Islanders win Feb. 11.
“They played us very well all year,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “I’ve been watching a lot of games here, watching as many games as we can, and they’ve played as well as any team in our bubble here in Toronto. They found their game very quickly, they play with purpose and structure and identity. They have some skill up front, three lines that can score. They’re really a good hockey team.”
It’s the first time the Flyers and Islanders are meeting in the playoffs since the 1987 Patrick Division Final.
Flyers: Jakub Voracek led the Flyers against the Canadiens with seven points (four goals, three assists) in six games. He played well enough to reclaim his spot at right wing on the top line after starting the series at left wing on the third line. Voracek has 33 points (six goals, 27 assists) in 42 games against the Islanders.
Islanders: Forward Anthony Beauvillier scored two goals in the series-clinching 4-0 win against the Capitals in Game 5. He has nine points (six goals, three assists) in nine games this postseason.
Flyers: Hart became the second-youngest goalie in NHL history with back-to-back playoff shutouts in Games 3 and 4 against the Canadiens. Among goalies to play at least four postseason games, the 22-year-old leads the NHL with a .943 save percentage and is third with a 1.71 goals-against average. The shutouts in Games 3 and 4 came after he was pulled during a 5-0 loss in Game 2.
Islanders: Varlamov has been one of the League’s top goalies this postseason and put an exclamation point on the end of the first-round with a shutout in Game 5 against the Capitals. Varlamov is 7-2 in the postseason with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.
Numbers to know
Flyers: Philadelphia is 7-0-0 in the postseason when scoring first and when leading after two periods, a continuation of their regular season when they were 29-0-2 when ahead after two.
Islanders: New York has allowed fewer than 30 shots on goal in each of its nine postseason games, which matches a team record set in 1981 and 1982. The Islanders won the Stanley Cup in each of those years.
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere doesn’t have a guaranteed spot in the lineup but the defenseman has played well when needed. He has two assists and a plus-2 rating in four postseason games. He’s also blocked 10 shots for a Flyers-best 9.07 per 60 minutes. Gostisbehere, healthy after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January and his right knee in late May, could provide a jolt of speed and energy if the Flyers feel they need a boost at 5-on-5 or the power play.
Islanders: Lee responded with goals in three straight games in the first round against the Capitals after he went without a point in the Qualifiers. Lee had a goal and two assists in three games against the Flyers during the regular season.
They said it
“It’s pretty fun to get a series win, but we’re not done. Just a feather in our hat right now and we’re going to keep going and keep this train rolling.” — Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere
“Anytime we see these guys or anyone else in the [Metropolitan] division, it’s a pretty intense game, and obviously that’s going to be no different coming up in the next round.” — Islanders forward Anders Lee
Will win if …
Flyers: They get more from their best players. Philadelphia’s top five goal-scorers during the regular season — Travis Konecny (24), Hayes (23), Sean Couturier (22), Claude Giroux (21) and James van Riemsdyk (19) — combined for one goal against the Canadiens, by Hayes in Game 6. The Flyers rely on a diverse offense, but they’ll need more from their top players to advance to the conference final for the first time since 2010.
Islanders: They come anywhere close to resembling the team that smothered the Capitals at 5-on-5 in the first round. New York will have to continue to roll four lines effectively and, led by the defense pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, take away time and space and minimize quality scoring chances against.
Flyers projected lineup
Michael Raffl — Sean Couturier — Jakub Voracek
Joel Farabee — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk — Claude Giroux — Scott Laughton
Derek Grant — Nate Thompson — Tyler Pitlick
Ivan Provorov — Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim — Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg — Justin Braun
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Morgan Frost, Oskar Lindblom, Mark Friedman, Shayne Gostisbehere, Andy Welinski, Egor Zamula, Alex Lyon, Kirill Ustimenko
Unfit to play: None
Islanders projected lineup
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Derick Brassard — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Leo Komarov
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy — Andy Greene
Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Sebastian Aho, Johnny Boychuk, Noah Dobson, Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson
Unfit to play: None
NHL.com deputy managing editors Brian Compton and Adam Kimelman contributed to this report