Alain Vigneault did not forget the date.
Not even fewer than 10 minutes after a double-overtime slugfest, his team’s third overtime victory in this best-of-seven second-round series, to force a climactic Game 7.
The head coach still remembered July 2 and the series of events that followed, leading to the astounding presence in the Flyers’ 5-4 Game 6 win over the Islanders.
On July 2, Oskar Lindblom rang a bell on the 5th floor of the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital to signify the completion of his radiation treatments.
On Thursday night, Sept. 3, 2020, Lindblom returned to the Flyers’ lineup, playing his first game since his diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma in mid-December.
On July 22, when the Flyers signed Lindblom to a three-year contract extension, general manager Chuck Fletcher extolled the Swedish winger for his “tremendous team orientation.”
“It's always about the team,” Fletcher said. “He's always worried about others. And he's a hell of a hockey player.”
So with key forwards Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee unavailable for Game 6 because of undisclosed injuries, with the Flyers’ season in the balance, Lindblom was there for his team, playing again, just a couple of months after beating cancer.
“For me, doesn’t it say so much about the young man?” Vigneault said postgame in a video interview. “He gets cleared from cancer on July 2, we start our camp on July 13. He goes back home for a couple of days. It just shows you about the young man and his will to help. He comes back, he spends a couple of days in quarantine and starts working out. A month later, he’s helping his teammates win a Game 6 that’s giving us a chance at a Game 7. Considering our situation tonight that Coots and Joel weren’t available, for him to want to play just says so much about the young man.”
And the Flyers were there for Lindblom, still playing in these 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting the stage for the 24-year-old’s meaningful comeback. The loyalty and selflessness of the 2019-20 Flyers are two characteristics that have spearheaded the team’s run, two qualities that have made the group a likable bunch that fans want to rally behind.
Game 6 was fun (and nerve-racking) for those fans. It was back and forth with different players stepping up at different stages of the game. Ivan Provorov provided the final dramatics with the game-winning goal in the final five minutes of the second overtime.
It has led to the all-important Game 7, the one everyone remembers for fond memories or disappointing reasons.
“Got a great shot and obviously a goal that permits us to have a chance,” Vigneault said. “And that’s what we wanted; we wanted to have a chance. If somebody would have asked me at the beginning of the series, against such a strong opponent, one game, winner take all, I would have taken that.”
Lindblom knows the Flyers will be ready after getting to this point following a 3-1 series deficit.
"We can’t start thinking about, 'It’s a Game 7,'" Lindblom said. “It’s been a Game 7 for us for a long time here.”
Vigneault beat the Flyers in the organization’s last Game 7 scenario back in 2014 when he was in his first season with the Rangers, taking them to the Stanley Cup Final.
During his time in New York, he twice overcame 3-1 deficits. He has watched his Flyers team gut out consecutive victories to give it a chance at the final step of a comeback and the next step closer to the Stanley Cup.
“I sort of feel like we’re that toy there growing up that you keep punching in the face and it keeps getting back up,” Vigneault said Friday. “We’ve been whacked and we were down 3-1 and we’re still there. Gave ourselves a chance and we’ll get ready for tomorrow. Work hard and enjoy the moment.”
Game 7 on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET/NBC) should be fun, it should be memorable and it should be enjoyable. Sports are all about Game 7.
There’s nothing better.
But Game 6 was pretty darn special. It shouldn't be forgotten, just like July 2.