The Flyers are headed to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012.
While that is a feat certainly worth noting, the Flyers genuinely believe this 2019-20 group is capable of accomplishing much more.
"Obviously we're not done," Shayne Gostisbehere said Friday night in a video interview. "It's just a feather in our hat right now."
Punctuated by a hard-fought 3-2 victory Friday night, the top-seeded Flyers finished off the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in six games to win their best-of-seven first-round series. Now they face the sixth-seeded Islanders, a team that plays a similar out-work-you, get-after-you style to dictate pace and prevent goals. The New York Islanders have won seven of their nine games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament, eliminating the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round and the Washington Capitals in the first round. 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, currently the second-fewest goals against in the playoffs.
The Flyers have also won seven of their nine games in the tournament, holding their opponents to 1.78 goals per game, a stretch that includes victories over the Eastern Conference's top three regular-season clubs (the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Capitals) and four wins over the Canadiens.
"They played us very well all year," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said of the Islanders on Saturday in a video interview. "I've been watching a lot of games here, obviously we've spent a lot of time over at Scotiabank [Arena] watching as many games as we can. I think they've played as well as any team in our bubble here in Toronto. They've found their game very quickly. They play with purpose, structure and identity.
"You only get so many chances in this business. There are 23 teams not playing and eight of us that still are. You always like to think you're going to get this far every year, but it's tough, so we've got to take advantage of this opportunity. It's a great learning experience on the one hand for a lot of our young players that haven't played a lot of playoff hockey or haven't played any playoff hockey until this year. But opportunities are not always there and we have a good one right now."
During the regular season, the Flyers went 0-2-1 against the Islanders. The Flyers lost to New York, 5-3, on Oct. 27, coughed up a 3-0 third-period lead for a 4-3 shootout defeat on Nov. 16 and lost a wild one, 5-3, on Feb. 11.
For the Flyers, two of those games were on the road and two were prior to the calendar turning to 2020. From January on, the new-look Flyers truly found themselves under Alain Vigneault, going 19-8-2 the rest of the way, while the Islanders went 10-13-7. Both teams also improved at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Flyers acquired Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, while New York made a splash with the addition of center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, along with the acquisition of veteran defenseman Andy Greene.
Something important to also note: there are two back-to-back sets in the series schedule. The Islanders were tied with three other clubs for playing the league's fewest back-to-back sets. New York, though, fared well in those situations, going 11-4-1 (23 points) over 16 games played in back-to-back scenarios. The Flyers played way more, going 13-9-4 (30 points) over 26 games in back-to-back sets.
Below is the full Flyers-Islanders second-round schedule:
Game 1 - Monday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 2 - Wednesday, Aug. 26, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 3 - Thursday, Aug. 27, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 4 - Saturday, Aug. 29, noon ET, NBC10
Game 5 - Monday, Aug. 31, TBD, TBD
Game 6 - Wednesday, Sept. 2, TBD, TBD
Game 7 - Thursday, Sept. 3, TBD, TBD
Below are the schedules for the other three second-round series:
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