Alain Vigneault rested Hart for Game Four of this series. But was that the best decision for the Flyers?
When it has come to line-up decisions for the Flyers, Alain Vigneault has had the magic touch for most of the season. In general, my critiques have been nit-picky and trivial. Is it better to dress Joel Farabee or Michael Raffl?
If Vigneault is going to bother to dress James van Riemsdyk and be forced to play him on regular five versus five shifts, it seems strange for him not to be used on the power play, as it is the one aspect of the game he really excels in.
Questions like these are fun to explore and debate, but rarely are these the decisions that decide a game. Maybe they do decide games when it concerns Carter Hart.
The line-up decisions for Game Four against the Islanders was a head scratcher. Vigneault left the Flyers best player in Hart, on the bench, watching helplessly as Brian Elliott and the Flyers faded again against the Islanders.
To be fair, this was the second game of a back to back so it could have been a planned off day for Hart. While Hart was still good, he was not at his sharpest in Game Three. Maybe this was all part of the plan. To me, it seems unwise to leave the best asset on the bench in what was an important, if not pivotal Game Four.
Was it panic by Vigneault? Was it to motivate the players? Was it just how Vigneault planned it as he mapped out the series? I don’t think we will ever be certain of the why of it. To be fair to Elliott, he played very well. The loss can’t be pinned on him, as he was the least of the problems on Sunday night.
Perhaps it is a testament to just how far the Flyers have grown or a new appreciation of how good Hart has become. But it feels that the Flyers would have a much better chance at winning that game with Hart guarding the goal mouth.
Now the Flyers find themselves in a desperate circumstance, a single loss from elimination. Game Five is scheduled for tonight at 7 P.M. on NBCSN. I expect to see no one but Hart in the Flyers’ net on Tuesday night and for the remaining games the Flyers have left in this series, if they make it.
But I also find myself compulsively wondering what may have been if Hart had started that fourth game.