It’s a familiar lament in any sport: “If not for a few mistakes, we could have. . .’’
Isn’t that stating the obvious?
Well, in the Flyers’ case on Sunday night in Game 4 against the New York Islanders, it really did come down to which team was going to commit the fewest errors.
While the back-and-forth play was fairly even, the Flyers were the ones who blinked first.
All three New York goals were the result of turnovers or blown coverage and that was just enough for a 3-2 Islander win and a 3-1 advantage in their best-of-seven playoff series.
It’s win-or-go-home for the Flyers in Game 5 on Tuesday night (7) at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and the survival plan begins with cutting down on the gaffes which have proven so costly.
A Phil Myers giveaway led to the first of two goals by New York’s Brock Nelson. A missed assignment created the J-G Pageau breakaway for goal No. 2. And the defense pairing of Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen, which had been on the ice for the Pageau goal, couldn’t prevent the second Nelson goal late in the game.
“I think after the game we quickly recognized where a couple mistakes were and move on,’’ Niskanen said in a Zoom call on Monday. “You look forward and believe in what you do.
“Right now you have to have a short memory, believe in our group and get ready for the next one.’’
No doubt Myers has been watching a lot of video to see what he could have done differently on his soft clear attempt to put the Flyers in a hole.
“I think they’ve just been capitalizing on our mistakes,’’ Myers said. “I think if we can manage the puck better, maybe play a little bit tighter in the ‘D’ zone there. . .try to be aggressive but smart at the same time.
“We’re going to have to dig real deep and bring our work boots every shift.’’
Kevin Hayes believes the series is a little closer than the scores of the games might indicate.
Again, mistakes by the Flyers appear to be the difference.
“It’s mistakes that we need to fix,’’ he said. “They’re a great team, don’t get me wrong. They have great players but I feel the goals that end up in the back of our net are results of us shooting ourselves in the foot.
“Once we fix that, results should start to change.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault believes the Flyers gave a solid effort in Game 4, albeit one plagued by those few brainlocks.
“I don’t believe we can play a lot harder than we did yesterday,’’ he said. “Probably not a lot of people are going to give us a chance. What we have to do is not focus on the big task but focus on tomorrow.
“We had an extended shift in the first period that cost us some issues. Their power play got nine shots, five scoring chances on that one occasion. Made a couple mistakes in the third, can’t be perfect. We just need a little more finish.’’
The Flyers have only rallied from a 3-1 deficit once in their 53-year history and that came during the 2010 Boston “miracle’’ series when they came back from down 0-3.
Niskanen knows it can be done because he was on the wrong side of a 1-3 comeback in 2015 while playing for the Washington Capitals. The New York Rangers rallied to frustrate the Caps that season.
“Well, we have to get one game,’’ Niskanen said of the Flyers’ current plight. “You get one game and all of a sudden the tide turns and the pressure is flipped. Right now it’s all about Game 5 for us and if we get that one, hopefully we get the ball rolling in the right direction.’’
Ironically, the coach of that Ranger team was Vigneault. He actually pulled off this feat in both 2014 and 2015.
Can he make it a hat trick in 2020? What does he have to say to inspire his team?
“What we did back then and what we’re going to talk about with our group is not looking at the (big) picture but that one game,’’ Vigneault said. “This is a great opportunity for our leadership group to change the narrative, change their legacy here.
“Let’s compete the way we did yesterday. There are a couple areas we can do a little better in our own end. Hopefully, we’ll be able to benefit from that.’’
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