Aside from the faux fan noise pumped out of the Wells Fargo Center scoreboard, there was no cheering in the arena on Wednesday night to celebrate the returns of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick.
Fans had to support the Flyers' pair of young forwards from home as they watched their team beat the Penguins, 6-3, in the 2020-21 regular-season opener.
The Flyers, a team with a genuinely unselfish and tight-knit bond in the locker room, made sure the meaning of Lindblom and Patrick taking the home ice again didn't go unnoticed.
They were the fans on Wednesday night. They've been fans of Lindblom and Patrick all along.
"Both guys got a big cheer from their teammates prior to the game," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
Lindblom's first goal since he defeated cancer was apropos. With the Flyers holding a 4-3 lead during the third period, Lindblom was fighting his tail off for a loose puck in front of the net. He was sandwiched by a couple of Penguins before Konecny collected the puck and flipped it in past the pile in the crease. The goal, originally credited to Konecny, was changed to Lindblom a little fewer than two hours after the game.
Konecny called it.
"It's actually Oskar's goal, so that's better I think than me getting one," Konecny said. "If you watch the highlight, it goes off Oskar's head and in the net. I'd rather him get one tonight and it was well-deserved.
"You know what you're getting from Osky every night. He's a reliable player — if his hands aren't going, then his work ethic's there, he's always in the right spots. And if he is on, then you give him the puck and let him do his thing."
Amid a breakout season, Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in December 2019. He completed his radiation treatments at Pennsylvania Hospital in July, when he was deemed without evidence of cancer. He astoundingly played two games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Toronto bubble, but Wednesday night was the 24-year-old's first game played in Philadelphia since his life and career were rocked by cancer last season.
"I would say this: my one disappointment in tonight’s game is that Oskar played his first game at Wells Fargo since December 2019 and he didn't get a chance to play it in front of Flyers fans giving him the great cheer and love that he deserves for coming back after battling cancer," Vigneault said. "I thought of that going in, I talked to Oskar about it a little bit after the game. It would have been phenomenal to play this game tonight, Oskar back with this place full of fans and first time he stepped on the ice, he was in the starting lineup, I’m sure he would have gotten the cheer that he deserves."
Another player who has had the support of his teammates through trying times, Patrick played his first NHL game since April 2, 2019, after missing all of last season because of a migraine disorder. General manager Chuck Fletcher called Patrick "the biggest story of camp" as the 22-year-old center was not only able to participate, but also stand out, as if he hadn't gone over 650 days without playing an NHL game.
The third-line center with skill and size scored a power play goal and won a team-high eight faceoffs.
"Nolan coming back and stepping on the ice and just playing the way he has played since the first day of training camp," Vigneault said. "Those are all positive signs for those young men and it's definitely a positive sign for our team."
Konecny is close friends with Patrick. The two shared a quick moment before they took the ice.
"I was in the locker room and just gave him a big hug and said it's just so good to see him back out here," Konecny said. "No matter what happens, it's nice having him around the locker room. He's a funny guy, he brings a lot of energy to the room. Regardless of what he did tonight, his presence just lifts our team. I told him that and just told him to go have some fun.
"It’s been pretty fun watching Patty. He's in a really, really good spot right now. It’s just good to see him having fun again and not worrying about all the stats and how he's going to play when he comes back; he's just having fun playing hockey, he's working hard. He deserved to get rewarded there, he's put a lot of time and effort into getting where he is right now. And it's scary, he's only going to get better."
Lindblom and Patrick mean a lot to the Flyers' 2020-21 season. They showed why Wednesday night after their teammates showed them love.
Subscribe to and rate Flyers Talk