The New York Islanders are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Feels strange to say, but 2020 is a strange time to be alive. The Isles prevailed 3-2 last night in a game that it seems the Flyers absolutely had to have. Philadelphia now faces the daunting task of having to win three games in a row against a squad that is playing at its absolute top gear.
If there is some comfort for Flyers fans, it’s that for perhaps the first time in this series they were clearly the better squad. The Isles have built their post-season success on keeping shots to the outside; even when the opposition was racking up gaudy attempt numbers, New York was usually at least breaking even on the real scoring chances. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, as the Flyers flooded the Isles with shots and Thomas Greiss was the only thing that kept a 1-1 game from being three or four to one after a deluge in the second and first half of the third. The Flyers’ top line of Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Claude Giroux were absolutely dynamite but the Isles are nothing if not opportunistic, and former Sen J-G Pageau broke the tie just over seven minutes into the third. New York led all the way to the buzzer despite a late goal from the Flyers that kept things interesting until the very end.. Are the Isles this year’s team of destiny? It’s starting to look more and more like it.
The Dallas Stars came out like a house on fire and were up 3-0 before last night’s tilt was even eleven minutes old. The shots at one point were 9-0 for the Stars. It’s overly simplistic to say that the game was over at that point, but Colorado was never able to get back to even. The Avs were able to close the gap to 3-2 at end of the the second but the hill was just too steep to climb. Dallas grew the lead to 5-2 with twelve minutes left in the third and Vladislav Namestnikov’s meaningless tally with three seconds left made the score line more flattering than it otherwise out to have been. Colorado’s missing Philip Grubauer and Pavel Francouz hasn’t been up to the task, but goalie play alone was not their undoing. If the Avs are going to prolong this series, they’ll need a better effort from their non-star players. The Stars, meanwhile, have been getting contributions from everyone in their line-up. This one doesn’t feel inevitable quite yet, but Colorado’s got some real problems.
If you’re a fan of the Canucks, you can probably look at this one of two ways: either this promising young team is putting up a decent fight and playing exciting hockey while learning what it takes to win against a real contender, or you can see just how far it really is to climb to the top of the NHL. J.T Miller had three assists, but I thought that Elias Pettersson was again the Canucks’ best player by a pretty wide margin. He’s really, really special. Vancouver have a couple of other good pieces, notably Quinn Hughes, but Vegas is probably the deepest team in the league and it felt like the Canucks were holding on for dear life as they entered the third up 3-2. Vegas erased that deficit, and more, in less than ten minutes and cruised to the 5-3 victory. The William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone line has been particularly lethal for Vegas. I hate to look too far ahead, but if we really are headed for a Vegas-Tampa Stanley Cup Final I cannot wait.
Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning, 7pm ET, TBL Leads Series 3-1
Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche, 945pm ET, COL Leads Series 3-1