It’s a new series.
The Islanders and Flyers resumed their interrupted, second-round series on Saturday night with Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, but the NHL players led a push to boycott two days of playoff games in a stance against racial injustice.
So, Islanders coach Barry Trotz didn’t discount the suggestion that however the series may have proceeded after the Flyers won Game 2, 4-3, in overtime on Wednesday to even the series despite the Islanders rallying from a three-goal, first-period deficit to force the extra period, a reset button had been hit turning this best-of-seven series into a best-of-five.
“You’re probably correct,” Trotz said. “They won in overtime, momentum. We made our adjustments for the next day. We went through our meetings. Then, everything changed in the middle of the afternoon. I think the last two days have allowed both teams to reflect. We really haven’t talked a lot about hockey. It’s been about the social aspect.”
Both the Islanders and Flyers practiced on Friday but Trotz said, on Saturday, there were not the usual hockey meetings that precede a game.
“We’re all professionals,” Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck said. “We’ve stated many times before there’s no extra motivation needed, no lack of focus on the job at hand. The last couple of days have been great for reflection and conversation and that’s going to continue. The focus for us right now is on the Philadelphia Flyers.”
“I really don’t think it will be that hard,” Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle said about refocusing on hockey. “We’ve had a couple of days to recover. We’ve played a lot of hockey so we should be fresh. We’ve had some good discussions over the last day and that will continue. You switch your focus right away to the Flyers, A week here to play a best-of-five.”
The winner of the Islanders-Flyers series will face either the Lightning or the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final, which will be played in Edmonton. The Lightning took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 3-1 win in their Game 4 on Saturday.
Game 4 in the Islanders-Flyers’ series is Sunday night and Game 5 will be on Tuesday.
Clutterbuck said the weekend back-to-back should not present any added difficulties.
“Not really,” Clutterbuck said. “If you look at the course of a regular season, back-to-backs are a pretty popular thing. They happen all the time. If anything with back-to-backs, you almost feel better on the back end. The physical aspect of back-to-backs isn’t really something new for us. It’s not something we concern ourselves with.
“You can look at it either way,” Clutterbuck added. “If you win the front end of a back-to-back, you get a chance to go out and continue the momentum. If you lose one, then you get a chance to get right back at it, get on the horse again. Quite frankly, I think there is more reading into back-to-backs than the actual situation itself. We know how to handle it and it’s really not that big a deal.”
But two days of group discussions among the four teams remaining in the Toronto bubble about societal issues is not something the players have had to go through before.
Islanders captain Anders Lee was heavily involved in coordinating conversations with the Hockey Diversity Alliance as well as with the NHL Players’ Association in his role as the team’s representative.
If anything, Trotz is somewhat concerned about mental exhaustion for the players.
“You have to respect what the players have gone through,” Trotz said. “You have to respect their space. You also have to respect as much as it isn’t maybe physically demanding for a lot of the players, mentally, a guy like Anders Lee, some of your key people, they’re engaged in conversations, deep conversations, meaningful conversations for a large part of the day. It is mentally draining. You want to give them a little space that way.”