Flyers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Oskar Lindblom

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Oskar Lindblom

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Oskar Lindblom.

Destra

If I had the opportunity to list all of the qualities that make Lindblom the wonderful player and person he is, I’d probably be here until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In a season that started off looking so bright for the 23-year-old, his world, along with Flyers fans', were turned upside down when the team released a statement in December — that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. 

My heart broke with the news, but I knew he was going to be strong through it all. I thought seeing him back on the ice at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, a few weeks ago would’ve been the best news of 2020 — but the video of Lindblom ringing the bell, indicating that he finished his treatments, topped it tenfold.

Lindblom embodies strength, resilience and a sense of hope. He’s loved by his teammates and fans in Philadelphia — the support they have given through it all never went unnoticed. While there isn’t a definite timeline on his return, what a moment it will be when he dresses for a game once more. When that time does come, it’ll be one for the books. 

A+ for the strongest player on the Flyers this season. 

Fordyce 

Let’s start with the beginning of the season. On the ice, Lindblom was one of the best Flyers in the early going with 11 goals in 30 games and projected to surpass his career high with flying colors, but this is not Lindblom's story this season.

In mid-December, the Flyers announced that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in the bones or tissue surrounding the bones. Lindblom began battling the disease, while still being around the team from time to time.

Lindblom’s diagnosis also touched off the “Oskar Strong” campaign around the NHL with players from teams throughout the league wearing Oskar Strong T-shirts. This included the Flyers' heated rivals like the Penguins and Devils proving that hockey is, indeed, a family regardless of the sweater you wear.

Lindblom has since finished his treatments, receiving a standing ovation when leaving the hospital on the last day, and he’s recently been seen skating with Flyers players at the practice facility. 

A+ on and especially off the ice for Lindblom.

Hall

It's truly astounding to see the impact Lindblom had on the Flyers' 2019-20 regular season.

Not only was Lindblom one of the team's best forwards and projected to finish with 30 goals before being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in mid-December, but his courageous fight and bright smile also constantly uplifted the Flyers. He made this team better from Day 1 and still found a way to make it better while battling cancer at 23 years old.

Whenever Lindblom was able to visit the Flyers, his teammates were genuinely blown away by his strength, smile and selflessness through the circumstances. It was no coincidence that after seeing Lindblom at the Wells Fargo Center in December, the Flyers answered their lowest point of the season with four straight wins.

"He’s still like the same person, you can’t really tell what he’s going through," Robert Hagg said in March. "Nothing bothers him."

"He brings everyone into a happier place," Kevin Hayes said in March. "If you’re having a bad day, you don’t have a bad day anymore when you see Oskar."

"Oh, it’s awesome. His smile, you know, he’s just a great guy to have around," Justin Braun said in February. "He brightens your day."

Those words say it all. A+ for Lindblom and how he has impacted so many.

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More Flyers grades

Flyers open 24-team tournament with a bang by taking down NHL-best Bruins in round robin

Flyers open 24-team tournament with a bang by taking down NHL-best Bruins in round robin

BOX SCORE

Fans on Sunday afternoon celebrated the return of meaningful Flyers hockey after 145 days since the club's last game.

The Flyers themselves did some celebrating, too, by outplaying the league's best team for a 4-1 win to open their three-game round-robin slate in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Michael Raffl, Nate Thompson, Philippe Myers and Scott Laughton netted goals for the Flyers, who came on strong in the second period and then controlled the Bruins to the finish line at Scotiabank Arena in the Eastern Conference's hub city Toronto.

The fourth-seeded Flyers helped their potential climb before the first round by getting a big game out of the way and opening the round robin 1-0-0.

Plenty to like with the Flyers' start to the tournament. Let's get into observations:

• Nobody should tell you to temper expectations if you're giddy over the futures of Myers and Travis Sanheim.

Who wouldn't be excited about two long defensemen no older than 24 years old that are mobile, create offense and are only getting better in the defensive end?

The two make up a young defensive pair with only four combined games of playoff experience entering the tournament. But the Flyers made a point during the regular season to have them learn and gain confidence by playing hard minutes in big situations. On Sunday, the coaching staff saw early returns on that game plan.

"Not only did we not hide those guys, but we purposely matched them against the best lines in the league. A: because they have that ability. But B: because we wanted them to grow," Flyers assistant coach Mike Yeo, who oversees the blueliners, said during training camp.

The 6-foot-5 Myers scored a nasty and important goal in the second period just eight seconds after Chris Wagner trimmed the Flyers' lead to 2-1.

"I love playing against the best players and I’m looking forward to the challenge," Myers said in camp. "It’s a challenge that I’m embracing with open arms."

Sanheim got the Flyers started with a nice feed to Raffl, who made a pretty finish to hand the Flyers a 1-0 advantage in the middle frame. Both Sanheim and Myers were physical and smart in the defensive zone, as well, breaking up plays when the opportunity called for it.

Against the Bruins this season, the duo has combined for four goals, six points and a plus-11 rating. They're not intimidated and that's huge for the Flyers' chances.

• If you want to get a true sense of how much deeper the Flyers are compared to years past, ask Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Two of the mainstay pieces to the club's core have put a lot of production on their shoulders but the Flyers haven't won a playoff series since 2012, Voracek's first season in Philadelphia.

They've admitted the difference of the Flyers' improved depth.

"I think you can tell that’s another reason why we’re winning games," Voracek said in February. "So many times me, G or [Sean Couturier] didn’t have any points, and we find a way to score four, five goals. Let’s be honest, it didn’t happen very often in the past. We are extremely deep. It feels like every time when somebody is off scoring-wise, somebody else is picking it up. That’s what the good teams do and we do it well.”

The Flyers' fourth line of Raffl, Thompson and Tyler Pitlick totaled two goals, three points and a plus-4 mark.

Giroux, Couturier and Voracek didn't need to score much. They combined for one assist but delivered quality defensive work and the Flyers beat Boston by three goals.

• One possible bad storyline from the Flyers' perspective to come from Sunday's outing was Raffl being forced to leave the game during the third period.

He went into the boards awkwardly in a race for the puck. He didn't appear in terrible pain but wasn't putting pressure on his one leg as he needed assistance off the ice from Flyers director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin.

After the game, the Flyers did not have an immediate update on Raffl as the play happened later in the final stanza.

"I looked at it quickly on the overhead just a little bit after it happened," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said in a video interview after the game. "Seemed like it was close to being a slew foot but I'd have to see the replay again."

Missing Raffl for any time would be a blow to the team's aforementioned depth. Stay tuned. The Flyers do know they have Joel Farabee waiting in the wings.

• All was well for Carter Hart in his tournament debut. He converted 12 saves in the first period and the lone goal he allowed was from a funny bounce off Robert Hagg's skate.

Hart made 34 saves on 35 shots.

"I know I've been here a short time, but he doesn't look 21 to me," Thompson said after the game in a video interview. "He reminds me a little bit of a goalie I used to play with in Montreal."

Thompson was referring to Carey Price.

The Flyers did not have to face Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask (unfit to play), who is 15-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in his career against the orange and black.

They instead saw Jaroslav Halak, who is no slouch. The 35-year-old veteran recorded a 2.39 goals-against average during the regular season but the Flyers got the best of him.

• The Flyers impressively held Boston's big trio of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron scoreless as the three were a combined minus-7. 

"I think our guys did a good job, especially Coots' line playing against them," Laughton said.

• Thompson, who received the nod over Farabee, looked off his game a bit early on in fourth-line duties. He had trouble with the puck on his stick a few times and sent a questionable pass through the defensive zone in the first period.

Then he made up for it with this shot to hand the Flyers a 2-0 lead in the second period. The 35-year-old knows the postseason, having played in an Eastern Conference Final and a Western Conference Final. A really good guy to have. General manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Thompson at the February trade deadline for a 2021 fifth-round pick.

• The Flyers have two more games in the round robin. They face the Capitals Thursday (start time TBD) and Lightning Saturday (start time TBD).

The Flyers could try some different looks Thursday (see story). Maybe the Flyers now lean more toward giving Raffl a game off. We'll see.

The Capitals and Lightning play the other Eastern Conference round-robin opener Monday (4 p.m./NBCSN).

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers, Stanley Cup predictions

2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers, Stanley Cup predictions

This weekend officially kicked off the 2020 race to the Stanley Cup. After months of waiting and uncertainty, we are now shifting gears to hockey nearly around the clock and that’s a dream in itself.

Before the Flyers embark on their playoff journey, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall give their predictions for the team and who wins it all.

Destra

I have waited my whole life to feel this confident about a Flyers team. If you’ve been watching throughout the season, especially following the NHL All-Star break, you could tell that this team was destined for more than another year of disappointment. 

This goes back to the offseason when general manager Chuck Fletcher made some roster additions. He didn’t need to go out and get a big-time free agent, but rather evaluated the needs of the current roster and found a way to complement it. Without the addition of Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier wouldn’t have been able to flourish as the 1C he is. Without Matt Niskanen, Ivan Provorov wouldn’t have been able to get guidance from a true veteran defenseman and find his game that is wise beyond his years once more. No additions would have led to another season of falling short of expectations and now the bar is set for the ultimate test — the Stanley Cup. 

When we first evaluated the team’s potential before the beginning of the season, I believed winning a single playoff round would have been enough for fans. It would showcase growth and promise for seasons to come. Yeah, that’s not the mentality anymore. 

This is it. This is the year the Flyers win it all. Claude Giroux will finally get to raise that beautiful Stanley Cup over his head and the drought in Philadelphia will be over after 45 years of waiting. The cards have been dealt in the Flyers’ favor and they have the power to control their fate. I see the Flyers winning in six games against the Golden Knights. 

This isn’t optimism anymore, this is certainty. 

Emmer

This Flyers team certainly has a different vibe than years past. From its solid depth at forward to its drastically improved special teams, to having arguably the strongest goaltending duo in the NHL —it has a healthy chance of taking a deep playoff run in 2020.

That being said, it’s still tough to predict where the Flyers end up ... after all, this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs we’re talking about. It’s such an equal playing field. With healthy rosters returning that wouldn’t have been the case originally and the lack of ice time for players throughout the pause for the majority of four months or more, it’ll certainly be interesting who comes out of the gates the strongest.

I’m optimistic about the Flyers’ chances. Why not have fun and say they pass the Penguins in the first round in six? Then I’ll say they go on to beat out the Capitals in seven and the Lightning in six to make it all the way to the Final to face the Avalanche, where they’ll win in seven and Giroux (and the city of Philadelphia) will finally get that Stanley Cup they’ve been waiting 45 years for.

Another bold prediction? Kevin Hayes goes off in the playoffs and wins the Conn Smythe.

Fordyce

The Flyers will benefit from playing three games in the round robin, where they can only improve their seeding. They can’t finish lower than fourth but can get as high as the top seed entering the playoffs. I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction that we will see a different Shayne Gostisbehere when the games resume. During the regular season, we saw a version of Gostisbehere that appeared to have no confidence on the ice. For Ghost, confidence is key and maybe more than any player I’ve ever seen.

In the scrimmage with the Penguins, Ghost looked like a different player. On the final play that won the game, Ghost took what was there. He reversed the puck back to Scott Laughton to play give- and-go with Travis Konecny that led to the winning shot from Laughton. When Ghost lacks confidence, he may try to force a play on the other side of the ice. It was good to see his assertive play on the ice and I’m betting on a resurgence from Gostisbehere.

In the Stanley Cup Final, I’m going to say the Tampa Bay Lightning will beat the Colorado Avalanche. The Lightning have some revenge to exact after a first-round exit last season, despite having the best record. With their roster of scorers that seems to never end, their lethal power play and Andrei Vasilevsky between the pipes, the Lightning are well positioned to win the Cup. The Avalanche have had the best road record in the NHL and the top goal differential in the Western Conference, so I see them making it through the Edmonton bubble but eventually falling to the Lightning.

Hall

There's definitely a feel to these Flyers. It's a fun, likeable, hard-working, well-coached group with plenty of ingredients. Sometimes in sports, you can sense when a team has something brewing.

The 2019-20 club has a conceivable shot at a playoff run, which should be exciting for a fan base that has been patient over the previous seven seasons, a stretch in which it has seen stagnancy, three playoff berths and no series victories.

The Flyers are in a promising spot and a lot of people deserve credit. It's no longer just about the future.

With that being said, my concerns about their Cup chances arise because of a possible second-round matchup against either the Lightning or Bruins, and then maybe having to beat one of those clubs in the East Final. It's not an easy road.

A big step forward and productive Flyers season ends in a long second-round series after a first-round victory.

For the Stanley Cup Final, I'm going to stick with what I had at the beginning of the season: Lightning over the Blues.

As for a bold prediction, how about Travis Sanheim leading Flyers defensemen in scoring for the tournament? That's bold enough, right?

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

From lineups to big picture, everything Flyers fans need to know for round robin

• Potential heavyweight coaching matchup for Flyers in 1st round

• Flyers celebrate return of hockey with OT drama and positives in exhibition

• So, about those Penguins ... 1st-round matchup for Flyers?

• Picture collage and signs show love for Flyers as they eye Cup run in Toronto

Couturier's goals in NHL bubble: Stanley Cup and an important baby book item

One of the most intriguing (and favorable?) 1st-round matchup possibilities

• Could Flyers still share the wealth against Blue Jackets in 1st round?

Would Islanders be Flyers' kryptonite if they meet in 1st round?

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• All types of Flyers odds (including the Cup) as NHL's 24-team tourney begins

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• Trust the captain, he'll know what to do if the Flyers face the Hurricanes

• No scrimmage for Hart but Flyers' goalie provides important sight

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• Flyers-Canadiens is perfect on paper, but would it be a trap?

• What round-robin schedule change could mean for Flyers' strategy

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