Vigneault: We need our top players driving the bus

Travis Konecny

O for Canada.

That’s the number of goals Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny have scored in games that mattered since the Flyers arrived in Toronto for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Those are some of the Flyers’ top goal producers and coach Alain Vigneault understands that lack of offense has to change if the team is going to prevail in its best-of-seven series with Montreal, which is now tied 1-1 after Friday’s 5-0 win by the Canadiens.

“There’s no doubt that any time, whether it’s in-season hockey or playoff hockey, you need your top players to be driving the bus,’’ Vigneault said.

“Right now, I know their intentions are good. But it has to transform itself on the ice surface. I mean today, the total team was off. We hadn’t one of those (shutout losses) in a long time. We picked a bad time to play a bad game.’’

Giroux doesn’t seem to be getting blue-chip scoring chances. That was clear in this game, particularly at the start, although his remarks tended to counter that.

“Sometimes when you’re pressing. . . we had chances again,’’ Giroux said. “The first period is where we lost the game and then you’re just trying to catch up.’’

>One for the bulletin board

Vigneault didn’t sound pleased with Montreal interim coach Kirk Muller’s decision to put his first power-play unit on the ice with time running out and the Canadiens up 5-0.

One for the bulletin board, perhaps?

“We embarrassed ourselves enough,’’ Vigneault said. “I don’t think we need to be embarrassed more. So I’m going to make sure our team is very aware of that next game.’’

Added Kevin Hayes: “Everyone sees everything out there. That’s their coach’s decision. You have to ask him.’’

>Hart tips hat

Carter Hart didn’t have the best of games but the young goalie couldn’t be faulted on some of the four goals he allowed.

“They came out hard,’’ Hart said. “I think they were just winning a lot of footraces, getting on loose pucks and I have to make a couple more saves.

“They play hard, they crash the net. They have some small forwards who skate really fast. So we’ll just review it, prepare for the next game and we’ll be better.’’

>Niskanen’s evaluation

With a different guy behind the bench (Muller, filling in for regular head coach Claude Julien, sidelined by heart surgery), the Canadiens might have thrown a few curveballs at the Flyers on Friday.

“A couple things were different,’’ Niskanen conceded. “We know who they are and what their strengths are. I think through two games, it’s more about us and how we’re playing.

“We’ve shown moments, we’ve executed a couple times, gotten good pressure and good opportunities out of it. But not nearly enough.’’

One thing the Flyers will have to try to neutralize in Game 3 on Sunday is Montreal’s ability to forecheck rather fiercely. It puts pressure on the Flyers’ defensemen and limits their ability to get clean breakouts.

“Personally I think we’ve gotten out of the zone all right,’’ Niskanen said. “But they force us into mistakes. They’re opportunistic, too. Their quickness around the net, they fling pucks toward the crease, put bodies there and they are hungry around the net.

“They’ve gotten some goals out of situations like that. It’s going to take a better effort by everybody to get the ice tilted back the right way.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2446 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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