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2017-18 Player Review: Oskar Lindblom’s first year flash

We’re talking kids! Or, just one of them...

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was a weird year for our buddy Oskar—just when he was looking like he would be able to put together a solid preseason and earn himself a place on the roster out of camp, he was benched before being sent down to play with the Phantoms. Then a slow start in Lehigh Valley had us a little worried. Then that was over and he was an AHL All Star, and we were left wondering how much longer it would be before we finally saw him at the next level.

The answer to that would turn out to be February 19th, when he officially received the call up to the NHL. We were shown a lot of promise, but also got something of a mixed bag. Let’s get into it.

By The Numbers

Why don’t we start with some numbers? Because, you know us here at Broad Street Hockey, we just love our numbers. You can take a peek at some of the scoring numbers in the later tables—and we’ll be coming back to those in a bit—but let’s hit on some other metrics first.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For % SA-Expected Goals % Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For % SA-Expected Goals % Relative Goals For % PDO
52.02% 2.69% 2.75% 56.41% 9.39% 60.57% 101.36

Some numbers for you: Through his combined 27 games played with the Flyers in the regular season and playoffs, Lindblom averaged an adjusted 52.02 CF%, and an adjusted 56.41 xGF%.

I let you sit with that for a moment.

I’m assuming you took a nice little pause, so let’s keep going. That’s pretty good, right? Right! He posted a 2.75 RelTCF%, and a 6.7 RelTxGF%, suggesting that he was not only able to contribute well to driving play and positive results in general, but was doing so above the level of a number of his teammates who had not, oh I don’t know, just come up from the AHL. His emphasis on creating high danger chances is particularly striking, as he showed a real willingness to get set up in front of the net and just get to work. Like this:

So there seemed to be a good process at work, and Lindblom had no trouble putting up solid advanced metrics pretty much from the get go. And that’s not nothing.

But this is an average, and it’s also hiding something. If we isolate his four playoffs games, those numbers tell a very different story. Rather than some promising figures, we’re looking at an adjusted 35.38 CF% and 36.31 xGF%. And I won’t sugarcoat that—he got positively thrashed. The playoffs came around and maybe he was out of gas, maybe he was just out of his depth, but either way, it was a pretty dramatic turn away from the player we saw in the regular season.

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
27 2 4 6 8 36 5.13%

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.9 0.72 11.92 0.66

And we’re not quite done with the light doom and gloom: let’s circle back to those scoring numbers that we hinted at earlier. For all of the good work that we talked about above, Lindblom was only able to put up six points. And that’s not so good. For a player who has helped the team dominate territorially while he was on the ice, and who has put a clear emphasis on generating high danger chances, he wasn’t able to close on too many of them. We’ll talk a bit more about this later, but this is where we’re seeing something of a disconnect. The work is there, no question about it—he fell fifth among forwards in xGF/60—but the scoring pace is lagging behind. And maybe that changes, maybe next season is when it all starts to come together and Lindblom really figures it out. We saw hints of it in the back end of his regular season run. He just needs to find a way to put all of the pieces together.

Three Burning Questions

With all of that said, we’re left to return to our series of questions: did this player live up to our expectations for this season? What do we expect from this player next season? What would we like to see this player improve on? We’ve got some answers.

The question of expectations, particularly in Lindblom’s case, is a slippery one. My expectation through training camp was that he was going to make the team out of camp. But when it became clear that he was competing for a top nine spot in the lineup, and Hextall couldn’t clear up a spot for him, we expected that we would see him called up by December. And then that didn’t happen. But that’s also not his fault. They were waiting for the right injury at the right time, and that didn’t come until much later.

So where does that leave us? When he finally came up, I don’t know that our expectations were so precise. We’d been hyping him up for months, and he had been performing solidly in the AHL to that point, and we just wanted to wowed, and, if nothing else, just see what he could do.

In a roundabout way of getting here, I would say that I think Lindblom lived up to expectations, more or less. Would we have liked to see him pick up some more points? Absolutely, especially considering it felt like it took him forever to finally record the first goal. But we’d also be hard pressed to say that the good work wasn’t there, that he wasn’t taking care of the little things and emphasizing creating high danger chances. So there was a lot to like.

This performance also pretty easily answers our next question: what do we expect from him next season? Simply, we need to see him closing on more of those chances that he’s creating. Part of what’s made him an exciting player to watch is that he doesn’t do the Aggressively Flyers thing where he just fires away from the perimeter and hopes for a rebound, but emphasizes crashing the net and creating chances in close. We can expect to see him in a more or less settled NHL setting and role, and, as such, growing more comfortable and getting more consistent scoring across a whole season. Or, at least, that’s the idea.

And then how do we get there? What improvements do we need to see? It’s a bit of an imprecise list. Maybe our simpler piece is that of…well…keeping it simple. Too often, across the board, we’ve seen the Flyers try to get too fancy or cute with their plays, and miss out on their window to actually get the most dangerous shot off. So maybe better results come with more favorable puck luck—and I don’t consider this to be a Big Problem for Lindblom on the whole—but simplifying would also serve just as well.

The other piece is where it gets vaguer still: keeping pace. We touched on it in the numbers section, and we saw it in his playoff run with the Phantoms after the Flyers were eliminated, but a curious part of Lindblom’s season was how it tapered off in the playoffs—he was struggling in the Pittsburgh series and was something of a non-factor in the Phantoms’ Eastern Conference Final series against Toronto (though, admittedly, it’s difficult to pinpoint someone who was a true factor in that series, save Alex Lyon). And this leaves us with more questions than anything else. We’ve liked our narrative of him just running out of steam—his career high in games played was 72, and he had reached 77 before he even hit the NHL post-season—but maybe there’s something else there.

What do the Penguins and the Marlies have in common? They play with an incredible level of pace. Maybe it’s timing, but maybe it’s that a player like Lindblom—not the best skater and without the most top-end speed—that struggles against this type of team. His skillset, at present, just hasn’t equipped him to match this speed. So perhaps our bigger area in need of improvement? Finding a way to make sure he can hang with these types of fast teams.

Are we optimistic? Do we think this is a manageable feat? Absolutely. We’re still looking at a soon to be 22 year old who, yes, has made tremendous strides to get to this point, and who seems well positioned to make further improvements, still. It’s hardly trying to teach an old dog new tricks, here. There still remains a lot of promise, and next year figures to be a big one.

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