Kevin Hayes said it was a positive the Flyers were able to eliminate Montreal even though they weren’t at the top of their game at times during the series.
Can the Flyers find a higher level?
That question was asked of general manager Chuck Fletcher during a Zoom call from Toronto on Saturday.
“Yeah I do,’’ he said. “We’ll probably have to find out if we want to win games and move on. You have to give a lot of credit to the Montreal Canadiens. They play a very structured, a very fast game, put a lot of pressure on us. I think we put a lot of pressure on them at times, too.
“There wasn’t a lot of free ice out there. We had to battle for everything we had. I do think we got a few more offensive chances as the series went on. Our power play got a little bit better. But there’s no question I think there’s another level we need to get to.’’
Here’s the schedule for the Flyers-Islanders playoff series:
>Game 1: Monday, 7 p.m.
>Game 2: Wednesday, 3 p.m.
>Game 3: Thursday, 7 p.m.
>Game 4: Saturday, 12 p.m.
>Game 5: Monday, Aug. 31, TBD.
>Game 6: Wednesday, Sept. 2, TBD.
>Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 3, TBD.
>One down, three to go
The Flyers knew going into the season they had a good chance of breaking their eight-year drought of not winning a playoff series, mainly because they had just hired a coach who had already been to the Stanley Cup Final twice.
“I think we have a very good coaching staff all together,’’ Fletcher said. “They work really hard. I think we’re a team now that has an identity. A season ago, I don’t know if we played the game the right way. We didn’t defend well, we didn’t manage the puck well, didn’t manage the game well.
“I think we have a much better defensive identity now than what we did. I think the players know what’s expected of them. They bought into it. I think that’s very important. I don’t think we would be here if we didn’t accomplish some of those things.’’
>Flyers dynamite in third periods
Once the Flyers got the lead in the Montreal series, they usually hung onto it. Nowhere was this more evident than in the third periods of the Flyers’ four wins where they played virtually flawless hockey.
“What I like about it (Game 6), not only were we able to close it out but close it after we got away from our game,’’ Fletcher said. “Montreal pushed us out of our comfort zone and we had to get that back. Our gaps were better, we defended better, our wall play was better. We were confident during the season with it and last (Friday) night we needed it.’’
>Islanders a major challenge
No doubt the Islanders looked really impressive in eliminating Washington.
Now the Flyers have to figure out a way to slow this team down.
“They played us very well all year,’’ Fletcher said. “I think they played as well as any team in our bubble. They found their game very quickly. They play with purpose and structure. They have some skill up front, too. They have three lines that can score.”
>Konecny looks to get untracked
Travis Konecny led the Flyers in scoring this past regular season but hasn’t found the net in the playoffs. Clearly he’s frustrated.
“I think Travis is one of those players who has another level that he needs to get to in terms of using his speed to create and getting pucks to the net,’’ Fletcher said.
“He’s getting better. But there’s still another level he needs to get to. But that line (including Hayes, Scott Laughton) produced a lot of chances the last few games. I think they’re starting to get going.’’
>Key to Sanheim-Myers success
Fletcher understands why Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers have been the only constant defense pairing in this playoff tournament.
“I give a lot credit to (assistant coach) Mike Yeo and the whole coaching staff,’’ Fletcher said. “They (Sanheim-Myers) are young players, at some point you just have to trust them.
“They’re both big, rangy defenders, who can really skate. They both have great sticks. I think they both have tremendous upside and should have a great future ahead of them. What they’ve shown you the ability to do is match up and to defend. They’ve quickly earned the trust of our coaching staff.”