Like the Flyers' performance in Game 7 against the Islanders, the Webex conference-call connection Monday between Flyers coach Alain Vigneault and reporters was spotty.
At one point in the interview, Vigneault, unable to hear a question, sighed from Gatineau, Quebec: “This is frustrating.”
Yep, just like the 4-0 loss to the Islanders in the decisive game of the conference semifinals.
Vigneault said he keeps thinking about the one-sided defeat, calling it “painful in the way we played.”
“There’s no doubt that, offensively, we didn’t perform to our expectations,” Vigneault said. “I think some of that, obviously, had to do with execution, and some of it had to do with the type of offense you can generate and be successful during the playoffs. That’s part of our learning process right now, as a group, as individuals. There are things you can do in the regular season that will work, but in the playoffs won’t.”
The Flyers were primarily a dump-and-chase team in the seven-game loss to the Islanders, who rarely allowed odd-man rushes or permitted the Flyers to enter the offensive zone with speed.
The Flyers' power play also went 0-for-13 against the Isles.
“Offensively, some of our guys feed off the power play,” Vigneault said. “Their confidence was probably affected a little bit.”
The Flyers' big guns were silenced. Claude Giroux (one goal), and Travis Konecny (none) struggled in the 16 postseason games. Sean Couturier had two goals over 15 games. Giroux, Konecny, and Jake Voracek combined for one goal in the seven-game series against the Islanders.
“Because some of the guys were pressing, they were probably cheating offensively a little bit and that hurt us defensively,” said Vigneault, whose team won the round-robin tournament to earn the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. “This was obviously disappointing, but it should go in our bank of learning experiences and we should all get better for it.”
Konecny was one of the players who was pressing, Vigneault said, and that “led to turnovers that led to good opportunities for the opposition. TK’s a great young man that’s got a lot of potential and we’re going to work with him and he’s going to become the best player he can be.”
Vigneault has yet to have exit meetings with his players — they scattered all over the world after leaving the Toronto bubble — so he didn’t want to get too specific about what he needs from certain individuals until he talks with them.
The coach was asked if he was concerned that age was catching up with the 32-year-old Giroux.
“There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about his will to be successful and his will to help his teammates,” Vigneault said. “I do agree that he is getting older. He’s got an opportunity right now since we’re in pause, the whole world is in pause, to take these next months and really work at his conditioning and probably find the time to slow time. He’s getting older. As you get older, the muscles don’t react as quick, but you can work on that. He’s going to put in a lot of time and effort.”
Vigneault said there were “some areas where I could help him with where he could perform better. I need to see him face to face and sit down. I haven’t had that opportunity. He’s one of those guys that because we are in the same region that I will be able to talk to [shortly] while face to face. I need to talk to him in person. Obviously the comments that I’m going to have with him and that he’s going to have with me are going to be on a personal level, but I can tell you on the record, very directly, that I do believe he can play better. He can perform better, and knowing Claude, he’ll put in the time and effort to do it.”
The Flyers made great strides in the regular season, climbing in points from 82 to 106 (prorated over 82 games) and in goals scored (18th to seventh) and allowed (29th to seventh). Vigneault believes the improvement will continue because the young players are still blossoming.
“This team grew during the year, grew in the way we played an effective game — a game that can be effective and can have playoff success,” Vigneault said. “I do think we need to continue in all aspects of our game. Our defensive game got better. Our offensive game in my mind was on the right track as far as playing the right way. I do believe we have some young players, young pieces.
“We’re the team I think that played the most first-year players during the regular season this year,” he added. "I believe we’re on the right track as far as moving forward to win a Stanley Cup.”