It’s one thing to build some momentum, it’s quite another to sustain it.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault calls his team’s last two efforts the best they’ve performed in the postseason.
Yet trying to maintain that energy level for one and possibly two more games in the playoff series with the Islanders remains a monumental task.
“I would say our last two games have been our best since we’ve been in the bubble,’’ Vigneault said on Wednesday by way of Zoom call from Toronto. “(Against the Islanders) you really have to play your best. I like the way we’ve trended the last two games.
“That makes me optimistic we can continue on that rise up. We need to continue to grease it, grind it and find ways to get to the front of their net.’’
New York is one of the deepest teams in the playoffs.
“There’s no doubt this is a real challenging series. I’ve watched so many of the Islanders’ games, there are just no weaknesses there. Throughout the lineup, from line one to line four, how many teams in the NHL have (J-G) Pageau and (Derick) Brassard on their third line?
“It’s just a real solid group, from the forwards to the D-group to two solid goaltenders.’’
Kevin Hayes said we might not have seen his team’s best yet.
“We came into the bubble and we played some good hockey early on,’’ Hayes said, mindful of the Flyers’ 3-0 record in the round robin. “We haven’t been at our best since.
“It’s do-or-die time. Everyone needs to bring their A-game and I think everyone knows that. I think it’s a good time to find momentum, come together as a team. It’s exciting hockey right now. Everyone’s pulling for each other, everyone’s pulling the same rope. When you’re doing that, it’s fun to be a part of. It shows how good we are.’’
When does the pressure begin to shift? Do the Flyers have to win Game 6 to make the Islanders start to really sweat?
Keep in mind, the Flyers are just 1-17 in their history when down 3-1 in a series, so this comeback is far from a done deal.
“You can spin it any way you want, depending on which team you’re rooting for,’’ Vigneault said. “I believe at the end of the day, and it’s simple, we don’t have a choice. We have to win the next game. If we don’t win the next game, the season’s over.
“Is that more pressure on us? More pressure on the Islanders? We have to win, it’s as simple as that.’’
Hayes was with the New York Rangers in 2015 when the Blueshirts rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Washington Capitals. He said he could feel the shift in the pressure as the series went along.
“I think both teams have pressure right now,’’ said Hayes, alluding to the current series. “They (the Islanders) want to close it out and we don’t want that to happen. Both teams feel the pressure. Game 6, Game 7 – those are fun to be a part of. This is what we dream of when we’re younger; be an important player in an important game.
“So I think there is some pressure for both teams. But it just adds to the excitement for individuals.’’
>Hit on Farabee questioned
Replays of the hit New York defenseman Adam Pelech put on the Flyers’ Joel Farabee showed Pelech’s shoulder making contact with Farabee’s head. No penalty was called on the play but Vigneault says he still has questions.
“It was a check that I felt deserved some explanation,’’ Vigneault said. “I put that into (general manager) Chuck’s (Fletcher) hands. I talked to him about it last night. But I haven’t heard back.’’
Sometimes GMs send videos of plays to the NHL to bring more attention to an incident. Montreal interim coach Kirk Muller and the Canadiens brass sent footage of a Matt Niskanen hit in Game 5 of their series and the Flyer defenseman wound up getting suspended for Game 6. How much that played into the league’s decision is unknown.
>Niskanen a steadying influence
Niskanen scored a big goal to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead and he also settled down the team’s defense in OT. Vigneault knows how valuable a steady hand such as Niskanen’s is back there.
“When you look at some of the youth we have on our back end, learning by every shift, every moment. . .you look at what Matt’s been through with the team. He’s been a big help to (goaltender) Carter (Hart).’’