Earlier this season, it appeared that nothing could go in Oskar Lindblom’s favor. Whether it was just a goaltender making big stops to prevent him from scoring his first goal of the season, or just getting tossed around the lineup like someone that has lost their groove; Lindblom couldn’t find his footing.
Now under interim head coach Mike Yeo, the 25-year-old is scoring, and, like, a lot.
Lindblom earned one whole assist (that came in the second game of the season) under Alain Vigneault, but almost immediately, like a switch, he was able to contribute on the score sheet and on the general structure as well. During Yeo’s first game in complete control, Lindblom scored his first goal of the season and also had his season-high in minutes at that time. Since then, he has only grown to become more rooted into this surging Philadelphia Flyers team, amassing five points in the Seven Games of Yeo.
It all came into place, as a bold statement that Oskar is back to his old ways, with a showstopper assist to Claude Giroux’s goal against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
And he did that on purpose too! It wasn’t a pass to no one as he prayed that someone would be on the other end, he saw Claude storming the net and knew what he could do in that moment.
“I kind of saw that he was on his way to the net, so I thought ‘why not? Why not throw it in there?’ It was right on his tape and he hit a missile, so it ended up being a great play, so I’m happy with that one,” Lindblom said after the 4-3 overtime win.
You know who else is happy? Giroux himself, for being able to score the goal but also for being paired with Lindblom under this new coach.
“I don’t know if it was a blind pass or he knew I was there, but I’ll take it,” Giroux said. “He’s playing well right now. He’s heavy on the puck, he’s winning battles. Oskar is a player everybody loves to play with, he does all the right things and he’s strong on the puck. Right now he’s playing some good hockey.”
In 22 games under Vigneault, Lindblom was not given many opportunities to break into the two top forward lines, and with his depth teammates, suffered an on-ice shot attempt share at 5-on-5 of 43.82 percent. Only the likes of Nate Thompson and Zack MacEwen — players not really meant to be strong play-drivers — had a worse percentage over that period. Now, under Yeo, it’s risen slightly to 46.61 percent, but there’s a sign of good things to come since against the Sens, the Flyers were able to control 52.12 percent of the shot attempts.
These aren’t any eye-bulging or mind-bending numbers, but there is a slow and steady sign of improvement, and it all came to a point where on Saturday, Lindblom just seemed to make plays work that he didn’t even dream of under Alain.
“He was one of our best players tonight for sure,” Joel Farabee said. “Making plays. I think when he has his confidence; you can see it with that backhand spin-o-rama pass, it’s pretty world class and those are the types of plays Oskie can make. When he’s going, he’s a huge part of this team.”
We haven’t even mentioned that he scored a sick ass goal on Saturday as well; a complete rocket one-timer from the point after a quick entry.
It certainly helps to play with better players, but Lindblom is just on another level and he knows there are multiple factors going into why he’s playing the way he is right now.
“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Lindblom said when asked whether his recent play was due to a coaching change or just simply building confidence at this time of the season. “We got together as a group when Mike came in, had good talks and all that, but then I start scoring too. It makes it a lot easier to be out there and you feel more relaxed. You feel every night, you have a chance to score and help the team win. So it makes it easier on you and you feel lighter out there.”
Hearing a new voice — maybe just a voice that is more in control since Yeo served as an assistant under Vigneault — can re-energize a team, and we have seen it often enough to come to expect a team to go on a little quasi streak of winning once someone new takes the reins (and maybe that will be a former Flyers coach that takes a St. Louis Blues team all the way to winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, we’re not bitter at all).
Whether Yeo stays for the remainder of the season or is shooed away once GM Chuck Fletcher makes his decision on the head coaching role for the next little bit, is still to be seen. But at least one player is seeing the change in themselves under a new boss.