Flyers coach Alain Vigneault usually makes only minimal lineup changes from game to game, and seldom after a win.
So quite a few eyebrows were raised prior to Wednesday night’s game in New York against the Rangers when Vigneault made his biggest starting roster shakeup of the season.
And this, surprisingly, after a 5-4 overtime win on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Vigneault sat healthy forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel – replacing them with Connor Bunnaman and Andy Andreoff.
He also drew pencil lines over healthy defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Nate Prosser and brought back Robert Hagg and Erik Gustafsson.
In addition, Carter Hart, coming off that victory on Monday night, was replaced in goal by Brian Elliott.
Is Vigneault sending a message that even a win “isn’t good enough’’ if players aren’t executing the right way?
Lindblom came perhaps as the biggest surprise. He’s battled through both a bout with cancer and COVID-19 and the Flyers have shown patience with his lack of offensive production (just two goals so far).
“I had a conversation with Oskar this morning,’’ Vigneault disclosed during a pre-game media Zoom call from MSG. “I believe he needs a reset. I love the young man but right now his game and his energy level, what it seems to be, is not where it needs to be.
“So we’re going to do a small reset here with him. He skated this morning with the extras. We’ll see for tomorrow (Thursday at the New York Islanders).’’
Everyone is pulling for Lindblom but at some point the team’s performance has to weigh into the equation. The season isn’t half over yet and the Flyers are already in a battle for a playoff spot.
“It’s obviously challenging for him (Lindblom) right now,’’ Vigneault said. “Usually a player who misses training camp, a lot of those guys have a tough time coming back in and finding their game and it takes them awhile.
“Let’s just imagine what guys like Oskar and ‘Patty’ (Nolan Patrick, who missed all of last season with a chronic migraine headache condition) and how difficult it’s been for them after missing (that much time). We definitely believe in Oskar and Patty – sometimes you have to reset mentally and physically and that’s what we’re doing at this time with Oskar.’’
This has been Gostisbehere’s first healthy scratch. He did miss some time at the start of the season due to contracting COVID-19.
“Their (Ghost and Prosser) game last game wasn’t as good as it had been in the past,’’ Vigneault said. “There were a couple of other nights where Shayne had tough nights defensively that we still gave him the opportunity to come back the next game and play.
“But it’s been a trend here defensively. He can be better than he has. We have some options. I like the way are other two pairs (Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun; Phil Myers-Travis Sanheim) are playing. We feel like bringing in ‘Haggs’ and ‘Gus’ now is the right thing to do.’’
Vigneault said the coach staff is working on Aube-Kubel’s “inconsistencies.’’ Among the second-year forward’s shortcomings right now might be his penchant for taking ill-timed penalties.
“It’s consistency with the puck, consistency with reads,’’ Vigneault said. “Also, finding his way too often to the penalty box. We see a big, strong, powerful skating winger that has to find a way to put it together.’’
>Hayes looking for more complete effort
Kevin Hayes, who began his career with the Rangers, said a key in the rematch was playing more consistently in all three periods instead of just two, as was the case Monday night.
“In order to be a successful team you need to play a full 60 (minutes),’’ Hayes said. “We got away from our game in the second (on Monday). I’m hoping for a more complete game from us.’’
>Ranger coaching staff sidelined by COVID
The Flyers were facing a rather unique situation on Wednesday night: The entire Rangers’ coaching staff, including head coach David Quinn, was placed in COVID-19 protocol.
Running the New York bench were a couple familiar faces: Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch and associate coach Gord Murphy. Both are former Flyer assistant coaches.