The top line of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek has yet to score in the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament and yet the Flyers are 2-0.
What does that tll you about their depth and balanced scoring?
Thursday, it was there for all to see, namely three goals all assisted by Kevin Hayes and two of them scored by linemate Scott Laughton on the way to a 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
With the Hayes line, which includes Travis Konecny, clicking on all cylinders, opponents can’t send all their best checkers out against the Couturier line and expect a positive result.
Plus, it takes pressure off the Couturier line, allowing it to play tight defense. Led by Selke Trophy finalist Couturier, the Flyers have helped shut down the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin.
“He (Hayes) is a huge part of our team,’’ Couturier said in a Zoom call. “He can make the difference in a game. It’s nice to have that depth. It’s nice to see that line, especially the last two games, really stepping up and having a huge impact for us.’’
The main beneficiary of Hayes’ opportunistic play has been Laughton. Including the Pittsburgh preseason game, he leads the Flyers with four goals.
That’s usually about a month’s work for the soft-spoken left wing.
It’s all about the chemistry and right now that line has it.
“When we were in quarantine (during the early part of the pandemic) we talked about playing the right way defensively,’’ Hayes said. “Tonight, even though we had a ton of offense, we did everything right defensively.
“I mean when you play with TK and ‘Laughts,’ it’s easy out there when things are going well.’’
Hayes was asked about why he chose to sign a long-term contract with the Flyers as a free agent last summer (after his negotiating rights were traded here), even though they were coming off a .500 season. Did he see something that a lot of people didn’t?
“I played against these guys (the Flyers) for pretty much my entire career,’’ he said. “They’re not fun to play against. So I figured I would join them. So far so good.
“Year one has been great. The locker room is awesome, the coaching staff is great. Everything’s been good so far.’’
Out on the ice, Laughton is playing like a man possessed. He scored twice against the Caps but easily could have had four, as two blue chip chances were turned aside by Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
“I think it’s tough to build momentum when you’ve been away for three or four months,’’ Laughton said. “It’s no surprise – I struggled early on in my career, getting my feet wet. But I’m playing with two really good players. . .just trying to create space for them.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault likes what he sees, so there won’t be any changes to this line any time soon.
“They’re certainly our best line at this moment,’’ he said. “I think offensively and defensively tonight, this was their best night. Good on the forecheck, which created some real good looks and they were able to capitalize.
“Hayes made a great play on the four-on-four (leading to Travis Sanheim’s goal to make it 2-0 in the second period). There’s no doubt now that Scotty Laughton is putting himself in the right position to be real effective. I like that line right now and I’m confident it’s going to continue for us.’’