The term Alain Vigneault used for his recent three-game benching of Shayne Gostisbehere was a reset. The Flyers coach said he just wanted to give the defenseman a little break. Made it sound like how the rest of us would turn off our computer and turn it back on again. No big deal.
But for most world-class athletes, especially when their confidence is lower than a snake’s basement as Gostisbehere’s was, a reset can equal rejection. Take a seat, kid. We can do this without you.
“It definitely gives you a kick in the rear end that if you don’t get going [there will be consequences],” said Gostisbehere, who had a two-point night Tuesday in his third game back from the benching. “I know the player I can be. I know that I can help this team win.”
The offensive numbers are skewed by the Flyers’ four goals in the final four minutes Tuesday when the Maple Leafs had virtually stopped playing defense. The lopsided 6-1 score, however, should not diminish the play of the Flyers’ third set of defensemen. Gostisbehere and Phil Myers were solid all night.
Gostisbehere was plus-3 and even drew a penalty by keeping his legs moving in the offensive zone.
“I think it comes down to confidence. I had that tonight,” Gostisbehere said Tuesday. “Just being sure of myself and making the plays; not telegraphing too much. Just keep moving my feet. A big weapon I have is my skating.”
The Flyers have seven defensemen for six spots. They’re all playing well, so Vigneault has said there will be a rotation based on the opponent. When he benched Gostisbehere, it was on merit. That’s not the case now. All seven are playing well. Robert Hagg took a seat Tuesday.
Myers had a career-high three assists, all in the third period. His first came off an offensive-zone pinch that led to Travis Konecny’s beautiful setup to Claude Giroux for what wound up being the game-winning goal.
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“Obviously, you try not to think about that,” said Myers, whose ID says he’s 22, but he’d still get carded at most nightclubs. “When you get the opportunity to play, just focus on your game. Try to get that out of your mind. We stuck with it tonight, me and Ghost; we played well together. Had good chemistry out there.”
The Flyers have won a season-high five in a row and Vigneault hasn’t missed on a tactical decision in weeks. Whether it’s his goaltender rotation, lighting a fire under inconsistent veterans or handling the struggles of a defenseman thought to be a foundational piece of the franchise for the next decade, the coach has been a master.
Gostisbehere, two years removed from a 65-point season, is a different guy from what he was 10 days ago. His body language on and off the ice has noticeably changed. The coach said he hit the reset button, but what he really did was give his defenseman a chance to reboot.
“You have a lot of time. That’s a big thing,” Gostisbehere said of being benched. “My girlfriend works, so I was alone and you have a lot of time to reflect on yourself and realize what you need to do to help this team and be a better teammate at the same time.
"No one’s going to care about you if you’re down or feeling [sorry] for yourself. The best thing to do is put some hard work in and good things will come.”
Play of the night
Carter Hart had just given up a “greasy” goal, as he called it, and the Flyers and Leafs were tied with about 10 minutes to go in the game.
A minute later, the Leafs attempted to clear the puck out of their zone when Myers charged in from the right point and pushed the puck to Konecny, which led to the winning goal.
“I was just being aggressive and trying to keep it in,” Myers said. “My mentality all year has been to take care of defense and the rest will take care of itself. That’s what happened there.”
The last word
Hart was a brick wall until Travis Dermott’s goal, having stopped the Leafs’ first 27 shots. The Flyers’ response to the tied game was encouraging as Giroux’s goal started a run of five in 10 minutes.
“Maybe some teams in the past, we would have crumbled. You know, gave it away," Gostisbehere said. “We jumped right on the horse and got a big goal.”