Flyers vs. Islanders playoff series preview: By the numbers

NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with the Second Round matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers vs the New York Islanders. Watch the Flyers vs. Islanders series series stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Key stats: Flyers-Lightning Second Round Series playoff preview

.943 vs. .934

That is the primary goaltending matchup we are looking at in this series as Philadelphia’s Carter Hart (.943 save percentage) goes against New York’s Semyon Varlamov (.934).

Goaltending was a big X-factor for both teams at the start of the season, and so far the position has been a success for both clubs.

In Philadelphia, it was all about whether or not Hart could live up to the lofty expectations that have surrounded him since he became one of the team’s top prospects. The Flyers have been searching for a franchise goalie for decades and after a revolving door of failed starters year after year finally seem to have found their guy. Hart started to catch fire in the second half of the season and was a big part of their surge up the Eastern Conference standings. Once the playoffs began he went to an entirely different level. He has allowed more than two goals in just two of his first eight starts.

Meanwhile, in new York, Varlamov was a bit of a question mark at the start of the season as he had to fill the spot vacated by the free agent departure of Robin Lehner. Lehner was one of the driving forces behind the Islanders’ surprising success a year ago, and the Islanders were replacing him with a goalie that had not been as productive in recent years. Even though Varlamov may not have matched Lehner’s regular season success, he has been money for the Islanders in the playoffs thus far and helped shut down both the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals.

They have been two of the best goalies going this postseason.

[Full NHL Second Round schedule]

6 vs. 8

The two players mentioned above are a big part of these numbers, but six (Islanders) and eight (Flyers) represent the total number of 5-on-5 goals allowed by each team so far in the playoffs.

Those numbers are insanely low and suggest just how smothering both teams have been and how great both goalies have been.

Of the 16 teams that have played at least eight games in the Return To Play, the Islanders and Flyers are the only teams that have allowed less than 10 goals during 5-on-5 play. They have not only been the two best defensive (and goaltending) teams at even-strength, there really is not even anybody that is close to them.

Let’s break it down another way and look at their defensive performance per 60 minutes (as in per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play): The bottom five teams in the NHL by that metric are the Islanders (0.87 goals against), Flyers (1.22), and then the next closest teams have been Montreal (1.45) and Columbus (1.58). The league average is around 2.20.

Dominant defensive play and goaltending from both teams.

1

The number of postseason goals the Flyers have received from their top-five goal scorers from the regular season season.

The group of Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and James van Riemsdyk combined for 109 goals during the regular season and so far has just one (Hayes) between them in the first nine playoff games.

There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that the Flyers need this group to get going offensively if they are going to make a deep run into the playoffs. The other is that the Flyers have already managed to go 7-2 in the Return To Play while getting almost zero goal production from their top players, and that it is only a matter of time until they break through.

I tend to lean toward the latter line of thinking because eventually somebody from that group is going to break through. The depth scoring stepped up and did enough to get them through the early games, buying time for the stars to play through their cold streaks. That is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing that every Stanley Cup winner has to get through in every postseason.

2 vs. 14

That is the change in Jordan Eberle‘s postseason production since joining the Islanders.

In his first career playoff appearance with Edmonton Oilers, Eberle went through a terrible slump that saw him finish with just two points (both assists) in 13 playoff games. It was such a dismal performance that it made him an easy scapegoat to get shipped out of town by the previous front office.

Since joining the Islanders, however, Eberle has done nothing but produce in the postseason and been one of the Islanders’ best big-game players the past two years. In his first 17 games with the Islanders he has already scored seven goals and tallied 14 total points, a level of production that is far closer to his regular season averages (and actually even better).

He may not be the Islanders’ top scorer this postseason (that would be Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Anders Lee), but his line, which has also consisted of Lee and Barzal, has been dominant throughout the first part of the playoffs. He has also shown the importance of not overreacting to one bad postseason performance and making a regrettable trade. The Oilers’ loss has been the Islanders’ gain.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Game 1: Islanders 4, Flyers 0 (recap)
Game 2: Flyers 4, Islanders 3 (OT) (recap)
Game 3: Saturday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Game 5: Tuesday, Sept. 1,  7 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 3 – TBD
*Game 7: Saturday, Sept. 5 – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule
• PHT Second Round Predictions

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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