Hockey is upon us, folks! The Flyers have their exhibition game against the Penguins on deck this afternoon, and ahead of that, yesterday the league made available Sean Couturier, Carter Hart, Chuck Fletcher, and Alain Vigneault to answer some questions from the media. Well, we’ve gone through those availabilities and put together a rundown of the big takeaways for you fine folks. All of the Flyers news right here at your fingertips. You’re welcome.
There’s a lot of excitement brewing as we dive back into hockey and kick things off with the exhibition game today. It is a rivalry game after all, and that’s going to keep things interesting, and that was a sentiment echoed by players and coach alike. It’s easy to wake up for this game because, well, it is a game and we haven’t had one of those in a long time, but the fact that it’s against the Penguins and emotions are set to be running high is an added bonus.
But it’s also important to manage our expectations! There hasn’t been a game played in a long time, and Hart really said it best when he said he expects things to be “sloppy at first.” The team’s going to be getting back into game shape, so if it gets a little weird, it’s not the end of the world.
Managing expectations (part 2)
Let’s get this one out of the way as well. When the roster for the bubble was released and Oskar Lindblom’s name was on it, everyone was understandably buzzing about the possibility that he could get in for some games during the playoffs. And this still very well could happen! But based on what Fletcher said in this presser, we shouldn’t expect this to be very soon. Lindblom is still in Sweden with his family, resting, and has been for about 10 days. He said the team will be in touch with him this week to discuss their plans going forward for him joining the team, and that figures to be a process, naturally. So we can still be excited about the possibility of seeing him on the ice during the playoffs, but it would also serve us well to remember that this may not happen for a bit, here.
This has been something of a theme from the coaching staff throughout training camp, but Vigneault reemphasized yesterday that much of the round robin for the Flyers is going to be about striking the proper balance between giving it their all to beat up on their competition to move up in the standings for a better seed and experimenting with lines and pairings to find their most optimal looks for their first round matchup, whatever it may be. At present, Vigneault seems to leaning more towards emphasizing the latter, looking to the big picture and the longer term of needing to figure out just what configuration is going to work the best for them going forward. We may well see some variance in what the lines look like, and that might not mean that they’re binding, it’s just something to try. They’re still figuring it out.
Notes on the lineup
And we also got a couple of spoilers on what the lineup’s going to look like today! Vigneault revealed that Hart and Brian Elliott are going to be splitting this game, with Hart playing the first two periods and Elliott the third. Also, we’re going to see Shayne Gostisbehere, Mark Friedman, and Egor Zamula dressing for this one. These three are on the lineup bubble, and it stands to reason that a really strong showing could well propel them into the conversation for a regular lineup spot. We don’t want to put too much pressure on a single game performance, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
Staff in the bubble
In case anyone was wondering who exactly is making up the Flyers’ bubble, Fletcher also gave us a quick rundown of who they’ve brought with them to Toronto. Fletcher noted that in addition to their 31 players, they’ve brought along seven members of the coaching staff, eight support staff (which includes trainers, equipment staff, massage, strength personnel), Brent Flahr, Barry Hanrahan, Bryan Hardenbergh, and their team doctor.
He also noted that, while they did bring along mostly everyone who would travel with them normally, they were comfortable paring down their staff a bit for this trip so that they could bring the full 31 players that they were allowed.
We’ve all probably seen this news already, but it’s a nice bit of levity so we’re going to repeat it here. Sean Couturier is a dad! His daughter Ella was born last week, and you may have also seen that he’s still wearing his hospital bracelet from when she was born. And that’s a sweet gesture, but I think my favorite bit to come out of these interviews was the rest of that quote, where he adds that he’s still wearing it because he forgot to cut it off before they left, and his wife wants to put it in the baby book, and he’s afraid that if he cuts it off now that he’s going to lose it. Which really just feels right.
But anyway, it’s good news for the Couturier family, but also a somewhat somber reminder of what the players are giving up by going into the bubble and participating in the playoffs. They have families that they’ve left behind and won’t see for maybe months, depending on how things shake out. We’re happy to have them back on the ice, but it’s worth remembering what they’ve left behind. It’s not an easy thing that these players are doing, and we sympathize with that.