Alain Vigneault knows his way around come postseason time.
He can be a different guy when those lights flicker on for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that trophy is up for grabs.
That isn't to say he's not intense or competitive during the regular season, but he understands well and relishes what's at stake when the calendar turns to the postseason.
Everything is turned up a notch.
In the playoffs, Vigneault won't reveal any lineup decisions in the days leading up to a matchup. There's a new level of gamesmanship. Plain and simple, Vigneault wants to win. The five-time Jack Adams Award finalist who has now coached in four pressure-filled markets — Montreal, Vancouver, New York and Philadelphia — wants the Stanley Cup. He was a game away from winning it in 2011 with the Canucks, made it back to the Final in 2013 with the Rangers and owns 12 career playoff berths on his 17-year résumé.
When the Cup logo is flashing everywhere you look, he doesn't mess around.
"At the end of the day, at this time, there are no friends," Vigneault said Monday. "There are no friends in coaching and there shouldn’t be any friends as far as players. There’s a lot of respect obviously on both sides, but it’s time to play and it’s time to bring it. That’s what both the Flyers and Montreal are going to try to do."
Vigneault's intensity, competitiveness and no-friends mantra were evident Friday night following the Flyers' 5-0 loss to the Canadiens in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round series.
After the top-seeded Flyers took Game 1, eighth-seeded Montreal took it to them Friday. And it didn't let up. With just over two minutes left to play and the Canadiens leading comfortably 5-0, Montreal went on the power play. Kirk Muller, serving as the Canadiens' head coach in Claude Julien's stead, sent out his first unit of Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Drouin, Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.
Unprompted postgame, Vigneault went out of his way to highlight the opposition's late-game tactic in a blowout. Suffice it to say Muller's decision did not sit well with the Flyers' bench boss.
I saw toward the end of the game there, where Kirk Muller, they've got a 5-0 lead and he puts his No. 1 power play on the ice. We had embarrassed ourselves enough, I don’t think we needed to get embarrassed more. I’m going to make sure our team is very aware of that next game.
While Vigneault was genuinely peeved, the comment very well could be a motivational tactic for his club, to create a little bad blood in the series for a top-seeded team that maybe needed a reason to get angry after rolling through the round robin and gaining league-wide notoriety. The Flyers just received a mini wake-up call at an opportune time — early in the series when they were up 1-0. Now there's some fuel to their urgency for a response.
"We got our butts kicked today in all facets of the game," Vigneault said. "They outworked us, they outplayed us, they out-executed us.
"Playoff hockey is about winning four games. Right now, the series is tied 1-1. There’s no doubt that they outplayed us in all facets of the game tonight, especially in the will department. We’re going to need to be a lot better."
Did Flyers players take notice of Montreal's first power play unit hitting the ice late in a 5-0 game?
"Everyone sees everything out there," Kevin Hayes said. "That’s their coach’s decision, you’ve got to ask him."
"Yeah, I saw it," Claude Giroux, not sounding too concerned by the move, said. "No comment on that. We’re just going to worry about the next game here."
Vigneault certainly means what he said about the waning minutes of a blowout. If you recall in February, the Flyers had a 5-2 lead over the Panthers and went on the power play with about a minute left in regulation. Vigneault sent out a man advantage unit of Robert Hagg, Justin Braun, Connor Bunnaman, Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
That was the regular season, this is the playoffs. Is there a major difference? We'll let you be the judge.
There are two sides to every story. Muller had a reasonable response when asked about Vigneault's displeasure with his decision.
“I’ve got a lot of respect, I’ve worked with those coaches over there, they’ve done a heck of a job with their team, they’ve got a good hockey club," Muller said postgame. "I would never disrespect anybody. But we’re in the playoffs, you look at the first series against Pittsburgh, our power play wasn’t that great. I felt that if this was during the season, it would be a different story, but we have no practice time here, we’ve got to keep working on it.
"I totally understand if that were his comments, I was probably expecting it, but my job is to make this team as good as it can be right now and I had to keep getting some of these guys that haven’t been productive starting to feel it. I’ve got to focus on our guys in that situation.”
Vigneault was bothered by the Flyers' loss. He gave credit to the Canadiens. But he also discredited Montreal for that late-game decision.
The method to a Vigneault-driven playoff push hasn't been witnessed yet in Philadelphia.
This could be just the beginning.
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