My 85-year-old mother-in-law is only a casual hockey fan, but she gave a fairly succinct analysis of the Flyers' 4-0 loss Saturday night to the New York Islanders in a Game 7 that never felt like one.
"It seemed," she said on Sunday morning, "that the Islanders had more players on the ice than the Flyers."
Yes it did.
Credit the Islanders' relentless forecheck, and the way they made it difficult for the Flyers to make quick exits out of their own zone. Odd-man rushes were virtually nonexistent for the Flyers in this series.
Credit Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who was a difference maker in this series, and whose instincts were correct by playing backup goalie Thomas Greiss in Game 7. Before Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello arrived two years ago, the Islanders had won one playoff series since 1993-94. In their two years together, the Isles have won four series.
Lamoriello deserves lots of credit. His two before-the-deadline acquisitions, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (three goals in the series) and Andy Greene (two goals, including a game-winner) made a major impact. Conversely, the Flyers' two trade-deadline pickups, Derek Grant, who was scratched from Game 7, and Nate Thompson, combined for zero points and a minus-3 rating in the series.
But, mostly, credit the Islanders' core group of players. They thoroughly outplayed the Flyers' big guns. Those Islanders forwards, led by the irrepressible Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey, ran circles around the Flyers and always made it seem like New York was in control, even when the series was knotted at 3-3.
Barzal, Lee, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Nelson and Bailey – players that compose the Isles' top six – combined for 12 goals and 34 points in the series. Just as important, they set up camp in the Flyers' zone for long stretches, draining the life out of the Orange and Black.
The Flyers' top six forwards combined for eight goals and 22 points – and seemed a step slow in puck battles.