Welcome to Vigneault-Trotz, Round 2 – otherwise known as Flyers-Islanders, Game 7.
Flash back to 2015, when Alain Vigneault coached the New York Rangers and Barry Trotz commanded the Washington Capitals’ bench.
The Caps put the Blueshirts in a 3-1 hole, only to watch that advantage disappear as fast as you can say Henrik Lundqvist.
Saturday night (7:30) the two coaches meet again in the win-or-go-home match at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Once again, Vigneault, now running the Flyers, has masterminded his team from a 3-1 hole to get dead even with Trotz and the Islanders.
Can Vigneault finish off another improbable comeback?
“Every Game 7 is different,’’ Vigneault said in a Zoom call on Friday. “The outcome is the same in the sense that one team moves on and the other team doesn’t play anymore. There’s a lot at stake. There’s obviously a lot of pressure.’’
One gets the sense Vigneault looks forward to these situations. He also led the Rangers back from a 3-1 deficit against Ottawa in 2014 as well.
“It should be an enjoyable moment for players and coaches,’’ Vigneault said. “You get yourself ready and you lay out on the line what you have. This next one’s going to be interesting. We played five periods of hockey (in Game 6). We’ve been playing a lot of hockey, both teams, physical hockey.
“I sort of feel like we’re the toy growing up that you keep punching in the face and it keeps getting back up. We’ve been whacked. We were down 3-1 and we’re still there. Gave ourselves a chance. Get ready for tomorrow. Work hard and enjoy the moment.’’
No doubt the players are also looking forward to this opportunity.
Robert Hagg said he’s been dreaming about a game like this since he was a youth back in Sweden.
“It’s going to be a lot fun,’’ Hagg predicted. “In Game 7, that’s kind of what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing on the street. To be able to play a Game 7 tomorrow, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about it.’’
Scott Laughton, who scored the winning overtime goal in Game 5 and the fourth goal to send Game 6 into overtime, is a big fan of the ultimate game.
“I have a couple memories,’’ Laughton said. “I used to watch a lot of Leafs/Ottawa playoff series when I was a kid growing up. I used to watch a ton of playoff games.
“I think it (Game 7) is exciting. I think you get a little bit of a pit in your stomach before games and get a little nervous. A good nervous excitement, I guess. Really excited to go out there and have one game to try and go to Edmonton (for the conference finals). I think we’re excited for the opportunity and chance. We’re going to have to lay it on the line tomorrow.’’
The Flyers do not expect to have Sean Couturier in the lineup. He sat out Game 6 after suffering an injury in the second period of Game 5.
That means Laughton probably will be back in Couturier’s spot on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek again.
Laughton wants the challenge. After years of toiling to get to the top of the lineup, it looks like he’s made it – for now — in a very big spot.
“It’s big,’’ Laughton agreed. “I think at the start of my career, just seeing the way it went, kind of up and down. Obviously it’s nice to be rewarded in the playoffs.
“I’m just trying to bring the same thing every night. Bring energy and just play the same way for this group. It’s nice to get rewarded, but even better to win. To score a couple of big goals, it definitely feels nice.’’
In games of this nature, teams can’t get ahead of themselves. They want to take one shift at a time, win that one, then move on to the next.
The Flyers have blown enough leads in this series to realize that.
“I’m not worried about the focus,’’ Vigneault said. “When you’re playing these games, you have to make sure that you don’t look past the next shift, the shift that is in front of you. We’ve done a real good job in the last little while there, our last three games really.
“Yesterday (Thursday) in regular time, we might not have been as good. I thought in overtime we played well. You look at the opponent we’re playing against, that playoff-built team. It’s tough. It’s demanding. They’re a good team. We’re going to focus on one shift at a time. Hopefully it will pay off for us.’’