When a coach announces into a National Hockey League microphone that his best players need to start wearing their “big-boy pants,’’ it’s a good bet there’s a lot on the line.
And there is.
The Flyers need to win Tuesday night’s Game 5 or pack their bags for Philadelphia.
Coach Alain Vigneault has on recent occasion challenged his stars before but with the Flyers’ season on the line, there was much more urgency in his voice during a midday Zoom call from Toronto.
It’s no secret his top-end guys, veterans and youngsters alike – be it a Claude Giroux or a Travis Konecny – need to find the net more or the Flyers, trailing their best-of-seven series with the New York Islanders, 3-1, most likely will be calling it a season.
In so many words, Vigneault said it’s about pride in performance.
“When I look at this group, and I think of ‘G’ (Giroux) and JVR (James van Riemsdyk), they were both there back in 2010 when the Flyers were down three-nothing to Boston and came back,’’ Vigneault said.
“They were (then) the Joel Farabees, the ‘TKs’ (Konecny) and ‘Provys’ (Ivan Provorov). They were kids but they found a way to contribute. Now it’s their turn to put the big-boy pants on.
“We’re no different, I’m looking at the eight teams in the playoffs. You look at their top line and their production. I believe these guys have more to give. I’m not questioning their will, their work ethic on the ice. They have to find a way to come through.’’
It won’t be easy. The Islanders are playing some of the best defensive hockey of the playoffs.
“I think this is a great opportunity for those guys to step to the forefront,’’ Vigneault said. “You have G and JVR who have been down 3-0 (in a series), Kevin Hayes that’s done 3-1, (Justin) Braun who did 3-1 last year.
“He was a veteran player, so he knows about wearing the big-boy pants. (Nate) Thompson with Tampa Bay came back. He’s established and I need him. . .he’s been wearing his big-boy pants and I need him to continue to wear his big-boy pants.
“We have a whole bunch of younger players who are going to learn from this and grow.’’
>Lindblom getting close
Oskar Lindblom was scheduled to take the Flyers’ pre-game skate on Tuesday night, marking the second straight time he’s participated in that warm-up.
Vigneault said Lindblom, who recently finished treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer), participated in Tuesday morning’s practice and appears to be getting closer to game-ready.
However, the coach could not confirm when Lindblom might return to the lineup. The Swede hasn’t played in an NHL game since early December.
“Oskar’s working extremely hard to get back to our team,’’ Vigneault said. “I think we’re still a few days away here. But he’s closing in. He skated with us this morning. He’s in the gym every day.
“I’ve rarely seen a young man put himself through what he’s putting himself through right now. He had to put himself through (everything) to get healthy. Now, the steps that he’s taken to do everything he can to come back as quick as he can, is amazing.’’
Michael Raffl skated Tuesday morning but Vigneault wouldn’t discuss his playing status.
>Maintaining in-game momentum
The Flyers have dominated the Islanders for a period or so in each of the first four games but haven’t been able to sustain pressure.
What seems to be the problem?
“That’s a good question,’’ Vigneault replied. “It’s the combination of what we have going on, on the ice, two teams very competitive that want to win – both are playing the game the right way. . . a 200-foot game, a physical game.
“It’s demanding. In some games, for periods of time, it could be two or three minutes, it could be longer that one or the other team has the momentum. When you have the momentum, you’re trying to keep it. I think throughout the series, we’ve had it for some good parts and we’ve been able to keep it but we’ve lost it for different reasons.’’
Playing with discipline, or lack of it, has figured into the equation.
“Shift lengths are a little bit long,’’ Vigneault said. “We get caught, they get fresh legs on the ice and get some momentum. Their power play has more looks than ours.
“It’s a tough game. You’re trying to build, you’re trying to get momentum but it’s going to be tight. Other than that one game (Game 1, a 4-0 Flyers loss), they’ve all been competitive. That’s what I expect tonight.’’