It’s safe to say the Flyers’ big guns are going to have to do better against the Islanders than they did against the Montreal Canadiens to achieve success.
When Kevin Hayes scored in Game 6 vs. the Habs, it marked the first time that one of five players in the regular season with at least 19 goals had hit the scoresheet.
On Saturday, general manager Chuck Fletcher made it a point to say the Flyers still have “another level’’ to reach in their game.
On Sunday, right wing Travis Konecny – one of the five aforementioned players – said he had no problem with that.
“I think we all know there’s another level that we can get to,’’ Konecny said in a Zoom call from Toronto. “Individually, as a team, everybody wants to step up and do a little bit more.
“And I think it’s just going to come with time. There are areas we can work on. Just clearing up little mistakes here and there in the ‘D’ zone will help us transition to our speed game. I think that’s going to be key.’’
Because the Flyers are winning, Konecny, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, said the frustration of not scoring is somewhat alleviated.
“A win’s a win is the way I look at it,’’ he said. “As long as we’re doing well. If I’m on the scoreboard, it doesn’t really matter.’’
None of the media on the conference call wanted to remind him that he tried to break his $200 stick not once, but twice on the boards after a blown scoring chance in a recent game.
“I can contribute in other ways,’’ Konecny said. “There are lots of ways to win a hockey game than just points and scoring. I’m aware I have to step up a little bit more.’’
To his credit, Konecny is a plus-4 for the playoffs.
>Vigneault: Improvement needed for top players
As mentioned after recent games, coach Alain Vigneault wants his team – especially his top-end players — to play a tighter, more precise game.
“Most of it has to do with our execution,’’ he said. “Our ability to make plays with the puck. We have real skill players on our team. I understand sbout going through the process, the pressure with wanting to win.
“But we were able to win that first round playing hard hockey. Still, when you analyze it, I believe there’s another level that we can attain if our top-end guys execute the way we’ve seen them execute throughout the year.’’
Vigneault said he didn’t want to get into specific names but it’s no mystery he needs more from captain Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Konecny and James van Riemsdyk on the offensive end.
“There are a few guys that need to get that execution. . .those plays that you need to make under pressure; those plays a skill player can make, you need those at this time of year,’’ Vigneault said.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel has been sidelined, reportedly by a foot injury, but Vigneault disclosed the third line right wing has been skating the past few days.
The coach added he can’t disclose his availability for Monday night’s series opener but clearly Aube-Kubel is getting close to a return to action.
>Tight schedule for goalies
The Flyers are scheduled to play four games in five and a half days and possibly two back-to-backs.
Vigneault was asked if he might want to use backup Brian Elliott at some point to relieve the wear and tear on regular starter Carter Hart.
“We have to look at not only goaltenders but throughout our lineup,’’ Vigneault said. “We’re going to have decisions to make on a game-by-game basis.’’
>Niskanen compares styles, coaches
Matt Niskanen, who was suspended for Game 6 of the Montreal series, played for Islanders coach Barry Trotz when Trotz led the Washington Caps to the 2018 Stanley Cup.
Style-wise, the Islanders play a system somewhat similar to that Capitals team, according to Niskanen.
“The Islanders, under Barry Trotz, are going to be fundamentally sound defensively,’’ he said. “They’re going to play hard so I think for us, it’s going to be making sure we’re on the same page in how we want to attack. They’re just going to feast on turnovers if we turn it over in the neutral zone.’’
Niskanen said both Trotz and Vigneault have a lot of experience which serves them well in postseason.
“They’ve both been around forever,’’ he said. “Stylistically, the way they coach their teams is a little bit different. But (with) any good team, the further they get in the playoffs, there’s common themes.
“You defend well, you have a mix of speed and toughness, good goaltending, protect the dangerous areas of the ice well. Plus a good combination of rush-play forecheck. Both coaches put an emphasis on winning areas of playoff hockey.’’