The times they are not a-changin’.
One day after defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere declared the Flyers a team which has “lost its identity,’’ coach Alain Vigneault announced no changes for his lineup Saturday.
The afternoon rematch game with the New York Rangers, who buried the Flyers by an 8-3 margin on Thursday night, should provide more than its share of drama.
For starters, the Flyers have been outscored by a 17-3 margin in their last two games against the Rangers.
Plus the Blueshirts have just zoomed past the Flyers in the standings into fifth place in the NHL’s East Division.
On top of that, Thursday’s game ended with the Flyers’ Sam Morin going after the Rangers’ Brendan Lemieux. That resulted in the NHL fining Morin some $3,017 and 24 cents for “unsportsmanlike conduct.’’
Vigneault’s team practiced at the Skate Zone on Friday – the team’s first full workout in 12 days.
Both the coach and the players agree it was a productive session.
Whether the same cast of 20 players can somehow reverse their fortunes against a red-hot Rangers outfit remains to be seen.
“For now I don’t foresee any lineup changes,’’ Vigneault said in a media Zoom call after the practice. “Same four lines, same ‘D’ pairs.’’
Why not make adjustments?
“First, I don’t think our effort was bad last night, I think we really competed hard,’’ Vigneault said. “We made some mistakes, the other team capitalized.
“We worked right to the end so because of that, because of the way we analyzed that game and what came about, we liked a lot of things we did.’’
With that in mind, what has to change out on the ice to provide a different outcome?
“It’s a tough league to fall behind and try and come back,’’ Vigneault said. “I like the way our guys came here today, came here to work. They were focussed on the things we talked about prior to stepping on the ice.
“We’ll see if we can establish tomorrow a better start to our game. I firmly believe that everyone was ready (Thursday) when the puck dropped, they (the Rangers) just capitalized on our mistakes.’’
>Reaction to Gostisbehere comments
Gostisbehere said the Flyers’ defensemen haven’t done a good enough job clearing traffic from in front of the net, essentially leaving goaltenders Brian Elliott (who will start Saturday) and Carter Hart out to dry.
“Ghost’’ seemed to imply there was a toughness issue involved.
Defenseman Justin Braun couldn’t disagree.
“We need to bail them (goalies) out more,’’ Braun said. “We’ve been giving up way too many grade-A chances. They’ve been taking a lot of tough nights and it’s not because of them.
“It’s because we’re not doing our jobs. We have to be better in front of them, just get the job done to let them make that save. Just not giving up those backdoors. . .give them the heads-up shot and we’ll take care of the rest.’’
>How much did pandemic hurt Flyers’ momentum?
The Flyers were rolling along in early February until the pandemic forced a half-dozen players out of the lineup as well as four postponed games.
By March, the team began to feel the effects. Vigneault indicated he didn’t want any sympathy but no doubt the Flyers have been hurt by the reconfigured schedule to make up for the lost games.
“I think it (the pandemic) has been a challenge for society,’’ Vigneault said. “Everyone’s had their own pandemic situation. I don’t want to cry on ours and say we’re worse than everybody else.
“Like all the other teams in the NHL, we have to deal with it. Obviously, since our stoppage we haven’t been dealing with it the right way. Today was a good step in us improving as a team.’’
>Can Zibanejad line be controlled?
It’s safe to say the Flyers have to do something to slow down Mika Zibanejad’s line for Saturday’s game.
He just set an NHL record by registering natural hat tricks in two consecutive games against the Flyers.
“Just like any good line we have to be harder on them,’’ Braun said. “We have to take away their time and space. We’ve been giving them too much room in the ‘O’ zone to make the plays they need to make.’’
>Flyers’ five-man defense not executing
Ivan Provorov was asked why the Flyers have struggled with their total team defense. Their last-place standing in goals against (119) will testify to that.
“Overall, our game as a five-man unit is not at the level it should be,’’ Provorov said. “There’s too much separation between the ‘D’ and the forwards, not enough support all over the ice.’’