Despite the 5-2-1 record the Flyers took into Saturday night, coach Alain Vigneault was not happy with team’s five-on-five play in seven of their eight games.
Right winger Travis Konecny paid the price.
Konecny was tied for the team lead in goals (five) and plus/minus rating (plus-5), and tied for second in points (eight), but he was stunningly benched Saturday against the visiting New York Islanders.
“I believe TK is one of our top three forwards, [with] tremendous potential,” Vigneault said before the game. “He’s doing some things right, like going to the net and stopping. Obviously, he’s scored a couple big goals for us. But I also believe our five-on-five play is not where it needs to be, and I’ve been talking to the players about it for some time. Areas that I believe we need to be better at and have been better at in the past.
“TK is the one tonight who is not going to play,” Vigneault added. “His five-on-five game needs to be better in the areas he’s aware of. I had a good conversation with him this morning and I expect him the next time he’s in the lineup to play the right way.”
Vigneault said “there’s a 200-foot game you need to play,” and Konecny (one shot over his last three games) will “get a chance to reset.”
After the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime win Saturday over the Islanders, Vigneault said Konecny would return to the lineup in Sunday’s rematch.
The Flyers’ five-on-five play, Vigneault said, has bothered him with one exception – a 3-0 win over Buffalo.
“I came here to Philly to win a Stanley Cup, and to win the Stanley Cup, there’s a certain way you have to play,” he said. “Right now, especially in talking to the forward group ... there’s certain decisions you have to make, with and without the puck. That’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m going to get out of this group.”
Defenseman Phil Myers, who was not specifically talking about Konecny, said Vigneault “is the kind of guy who holds people accountable for the way they play. That’s just the way he rolls and I think it’s good for the team. I think he’s trying to send messages here and there. We’re all OK with that and we’re all on board.”
Myers returned to the lineup Saturday after missing four games because of a fractured rib and was paired with Travis Sanheim.
Surprisingly, Nate Prosser, 34, who steadied the defense and scored a goal in his Flyers debut Thursday, did not play Saturday. He was sent to the taxi squad Friday and not recalled.
Morin in lineup
Left winger Samuel Morin, a converted defenseman, played in his first game this season and was on a line with Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee.
In last year’s playoffs against the Flyers, the Islanders were the more physical team, so Vigneault was hoping the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Morin could counteract that.
“If we are going to try Sam at that position, this is one of those games where you could use a guy who is hard on the forecheck and physical,” Vigneault said.
Morin had been scheduled to play for the Phantoms in an exhibition game that was canceled Friday because of COVID-19. Vigneault had wanted Morin to play a game or two with the Phantoms before getting into the Flyers’ lineup, but circumstances didn’t allow that to happen.
“He’s worked hard and he deserves this opportunity,” Vigneault said.
Morin played just 5:31 Saturday and had three hits, a blocked shot, one shot, and a minus-1 rating.
The Flyers went 0-2-1 against the Isles last season, marking the first time they failed to get a regular-season win against New York since it entered the league in 1972. ... Brian Elliott will face the Isles on Sunday night. ... The Flyers have scored the league’s fifth-most goals and have the seventh-fewest number of shots. Their 15% shooting percentage is second in the NHL.