The Philadelphia Flyers knew they were going to need more production from their top offensive players against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round.
That need became more glaring after a 4-0 loss in Game 1 on Monday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the East hub city.
“The top players have got to play better,” captain Claude Giroux said. “I’m obviously one of them and I’ve got to get going here.”
Of course, none of the Flyers were able to break through against the Islanders’ stingy defense and goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made 29 saves in his second consecutive shutout. But the focus is on their top two lines heading into Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Wednesday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
The top line of Giroux (two), Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek (one) combined for three shots on goal. The second line of Travis Konecny (four), Kevin Hayes (three) and Joel Farebee (two) combined for nine, including a few quality scoring chances, but they couldn’t beat Varlamov.
“Our top-end guys are good players that the willingness is there. The execution was just a little off tonight,” Flyers coach Alain Vigenault said. “They had some good looks. Hayes’ line had some real good looks tonight, and I expect more obviously from [Couturier] and his line. They’ll have an opportunity to bounce back and answer back Wednesday afternoon.”
Philadelphia controlled the play in the second period, outshooting New York 15-7, but couldn’t finish. After Devon Toews scored into an empty net at 12:21 of the third to make it 4-0, the Flyers started to think about what they need to do better in Game 2.
“Obviously, they have structure,” Voracek said. “It feels like in the offensive zone they have five guys inside the zone around the hash marks. It’s really hard to get some shots through. But I think we created in the second period. We had good movement. We had good momentum, I think. … We have to find a way to get one in.”
What the Flyers agreed they can’t do is get frustrated.
Konecny appeared to look to the ceiling a few times in Game 1.
One came after defenseman Andy Greene, who scored New York’s first goal 6:06 into the game, reached back with his right leg to block Konecny’s shot and save a potential goal with 1:31 left in the first period.
Konecny did it again after Varlamov made a glove save on his shot from the left face-off circle with 3:28 left in the third.
“Frustration is something that we can’t have,” Giroux said. “I think we generated offense. Our first period lost us the game, I think. We were trying to get back in the game.”
Although the Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the first round, rookie goalie Carter Hart allowed them to overcome being held to 11 goals in the series. Voracek scored four of them (three on the power play), but Hayes’ goal in Game 6 was the only one by Philadelphia’s top five goal-scorers from the regular season: Konecny (24 goals), Hayes (23), Couturier (22), Giroux (21) and James van Riemsdyk (19), who was a healthy scratch for Game 1.
The Flyers are 10-0-0 after a loss since Jan. 7, including 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That gives them reason for optimism heading into Game 2.
“I think we have the right recipe in that room,” Hayes said. “We have coaches that break down film. We have guys watching the game. We’ve got leadership and we know how to respond, and I’ve got all the faith in the world in my teammates right now. Obviously, losing 4-0 [stinks], but you can’t lose a series until you lose four, right?”