If there’s such a thing as giving a team a pep talk through the media, Alain Vigneault did his best early Sunday afternoon.
With his Flyers down 2-1 in their best-of-seven playoff series, the coach essentially declared Game 4 a must-win.
Let the record book show the Flyers have rallied from a 3-1 deficit only once in their 53-year history and that took place in the midst of coming back from 0-3 in the 2010 Boston miracle series.
Vigneault was hoping to get star players such as Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny untracked in this crucial game. Neither has scored in the playoffs and time could be running out.
“They’ve been top-end, skilled players all year long,’’ Vigneault said in a Zoom call from Toronto. “They’ve found a way to get on the scoresheet at important times. I’m confident that not just ‘G’ and ‘TK’ but our whole group understands that the game we’re playing tonight is our most important, so far, this year.
“So trying hard is not going to be good enough. We’ve got to bring a better game. We’re playing against a really strong opponent which has skill and depth. And we need to be at our best throughout our lineup. It can’t be just the goaltender, it can’t be one or two forwards. It has to be a four-line, six-defensemen (effort) and a great performance by our goaltender that’s going to permit us to win tonight’s game. We’re going to need to be real good.’’
Countering the Islanders’ aggressive forecheck could involve making adjustments but Vigneault contends it’s difficult to fend off physical forwards like the Islanders seem to have in abundance.
“It’s a matter of executing better,’’ Vigneault said. “But at the same time that I say that, the Islanders are making it very hard on us.
“They’re a good, four-line team, a heavy team that’s hard on the forecheck. They make it challenging for the defense, for the goaltender to set up pucks, for forwards to help our ‘D.’ So give them a lot of credit – they’re in the final eight, they’re one of the best teams we’ve played against so far this year.’’
>No problem with Saturday night goal
Vigneault confirmed he never thought about challenging the Islanders’ second goal in Saturday night’s 3-1 New York win.
In real time, it appeared the play might be offside. Replays showed something different.
“I looked at it when it happened,’’ Vigneault said. “Our video personnel was checking it very closely. Without a doubt, it was not offside. And when I was looking at it, it was not offside. It was the right call.’’
Although he took a penalty which led to an Islander goal in Game 3, defenseman Robert Hagg played a sound overall game. Vigneault likes the physical element the Swede brings to the table, among other attributes.
Hagg was whistled on a slashing call which was rather questionable.
“I liked Hagg’s game last night,’’ Vigneault said. “I thought he played hard. I mean he took some hits to make some plays. The penalty on him, unfortunately the referee probably had a bad angle. He didn’t hit the guy’s stick, he hit the ice and broke his own stick.
“The other penalty he took, it was more the (Flyer) forward’s fault than anybody else. All three of the forwards forechecking on their part – he’s supposed to be part of the forecheck and all of a sudden he has to backpedal.’’
>Lineup changes kept secret
If Vigneault contemplated any lineup changes for Game 4, he was keeping them to himself. There’s the sticky issue of not being able to disclose information on a player’s availability, even if he’s a perfectly healthy scratch.
“Because of the NHL protocol,’’ Vigneault said in statement which should be put on an audio loop to save time. “Can’t comment on player availability. But I would say tune in tonight and find out.’’
This back-to-back was created due to the postponement of Game 3, which was originally scheduled for Thursday.
In the second half of back-to-backs during the regular season, the Flyers went 6-5-2, including 4-2 in the last six. One of those final two losses was to the Islanders on Tuesday, Feb. 11 (5-3 in New York).
The Flyers lost the only second game of a back-to-back in the Montreal series in Game 5.