Flyers defensemen go on the offensive in the playoffs, Sean Couturier is back in the lineup
Some of the Flyers' forwards have slumped during the postseason, but the defensemen -- especially Ivan Provorov -- have helped pick up the slack.
With many of their forwards struggling to score goals, the Flyers have needed their defensemen to step up, offensively, in the postseason.
That’s just what they have done, especially in the conference semifinals against the New York Islanders.
Two defensemen – Phil Myers in Game 2 and Ivan Provorov in Game 6 – scored overtime goals to give the Flyers much-needed victories in the draining series. Provorov also set up Scott Laughton for the overtime goal in Game 5.
Heading into Game 7 on Saturday night, Provorov had eight points, including three goals, and a plus-5 rating in 15 postseason games. Defensemen Travis Sanheim (plus-7) and Myers (three goals) had also contributed on the offensive end.
Provorov, 23,who had four points over his last three games, is known for his intense – some would call it insane -- workout routines.
“I would say he’s one of the most dependable young men that I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” Alain Vigneault said before Game 7. “As far as his training regimen, the time that he puts in on the game, whether it would be on the ice or whether it would be off the ice, is [remarkable]. The skill work that he does on his own. There’s a young man that is really trying as hard as he can to become the best player he can be.”
Provorov entered Saturday averaging 26 minutes, 4 seconds of ice time per game in the postseason, tops on the Flyers and eighth in the NHL. Of the players whose teams were still alive in the playoffs, he was No. 2, behind only Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh (26:41)
“He wants responsibility. He wants to be out there at all the key moments against all the top players,” Vigneault said. “As a coach, that’s what you want from players. You want them to strive for perfection, to strive to become the best they can be, and there’s no doubt that young man is doing everything he can.”
Top-line center Sean Couturier, who missed Game 6 because of an apparent knee injury, returned to the lineup Saturday.
Derek Grant, the third-line center who had no goals in 15 postseason games, was a healthy scratch, and Scott Laughton moved into his spot. Oskar Lindblom remained in the lineup for the second straight game.
Center Kevin Hayes leads the Flyers with 13 points and a plus-8 rating in the postseason heading into Saturday night. He had three goals and three assists in the first six games against the Islanders.
“There’s no doubt Hayesy’s elevated his offense game during this series,” Vigneault said Saturday afternoon. “His line has gotten some great looks. He’s been able to finish. We’re in playoff hockey, where it’s hard to put points on the board and score.”
Game 7 nerves
After Saturday’s morning skate, Vigneault talked about playing in a win-or-go-home matchup.
“If you’re not a little bit nervous, you’re not normal,” he said. “It is normal with Game 7, with what’s at stake, with what’s on the line. To be nervous, to be anxious, to have those butterflies, that’s where you have to inner-talk to yourself. You have to talk and look at what needs to be done and how you need to do it.
“That goes much further,” he added. “The players and their performance on the ice, the coaches and what we need to do. Our body language and our voice tone are things that come [in play] this time, this game. It should be a lot of fun.”