Short, fast-skating shifts key to Vigneault’s plan

Alain Vigneault

To play new coach Alain Vigneault’s quick-tempo system, a player must be at full strength, both between games and between line changes.

That’s why Vigneault has not only controlled his players’ practice time, he’s also been preaching shorter in-game line shifts.

It all makes sense.

A tired player – one who decides to extend his shift to, say, between 45 seconds and a minute – can cause missed assignments and an overall breakdown in coverage.

With Vigneault trying to employ all four of his lines as much as possible, he would prefer the Flyers use the old “get-on-and-get-off’’ approach in order to maintain the sort of pace he wants.

He cited a particular situation during Wednesday night’s home-opening 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.

“I will point to one moment in the first period, for the first 10 or 11 minutes, we were playing well and going north-south and all of a sudden we had two guys that got caught out there extending a shift and we lost momentum,’’ Vigneault said.

“If you can keep those shifts down to a 30-35 second (frame), then you should be able to do a lot of good things out there and I think that is what we have done so far.’’

Players such as Travis Konecny have been preaching playing “the right way’’ since training camp and so far he seems to be a beneficiary of Vigneault’s philosophy. He leads the 2-0 Flyers with three goals.

Vigneault appears to have trust in all four lines, including a fourth unit of Michael Raffl, Tyler Pitlick and Connor Bunnaman. Giving those guys eight or nine minutes per game allows other players a bit more of a breather.

“For the most part, if you look at the number of shifts over minutes, if you are able to keep your shifts at 30-35 seconds, you usually have a pretty good chance (for success),’’ Vigneault said.

All that said, Vigneault revealed there’s still a ways to go before the Flyers get a full grasp on what he expects.

“Oh no, we are long way from where I think we need to get,’’ he said. “I think we are doing some good things. Players are starting to understand certain aspects of the game that we want to implement, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our guys know what to do.’’

As for the overall rest situation, Thursday was a perfect example.

Mindful that his team was just coming off a demanding trip through Switzerland and the Czech Republic and is now about to embark on a three-game road trip through western Canada, Vigneault cancelled a scheduled practice at the Skate Zone.

He was encouraged that the entire team decided to skate on its own on Monday, even though it was the weekly NHL-mandated day off. If the players had any fatigue hangover, they probably wouldn’t have shown up for the workout on Monday.

>Memorable night for Hayes

Kevin Hayes said he appreciated the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center for the home opener. He scored his first goal as a Flyer and said having family watching made it extra special.

“It was awesome,’’ Hayes said. “The place was buzzing. It was electric in there. It’s nice to have my mom and dad and some family and friends here. They are probably more excited than I am about the goal to be honest, but that place was electric. As long as we keep winning, I think it will be the same way.’’

>Everyone buying in

The Flyers went five-for-five on the penalty kill and two-for-four on the power play in the game vs. the Devils. That’s about as good as it gets.

What’s working?

“I think everyone is buying in more,’’ Ivan Provorov said. “On the PK, it’s about willing to sacrifice every single guy that goes out there. On the power play, the guys are following the systems that the coaches gave us. It’s been helping us so far.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2472 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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