Oskar Lindblom

Oskar Lindblom's playmaking an underappreciated storyline for Flyers

Oskar Lindblom's playmaking an underappreciated storyline for Flyers

So far, it might be the most underrated storyline of the Flyers' 2018-19 season.

Oskar Lindblom, the playmaker and passer, one of the NHL's top rookies through mid-November.

When Lindblom's rise in Sweden started generating buzz here in the Delaware Valley, the reputation was the winger could score goals, especially around the net.

But a slick passer? Whether it has been an unexpected development or not, the 22-year-old is showing it so far alongside Jakub Voracek and Nolan Patrick — like he did Tuesday.

"I don't think I appreciate it enough as I should a lot of the times," Patrick said Wednesday. "I just see him having the puck and I already know he knows where I am and he's going to find me, so I don't think I really appreciate it enough as I should — I'm kind of used to it. 

"He obviously sees the ice so well, he's a really smart player, can make plays down low, he's strong, he holds onto the puck. He's an awesome guy to play with and I think he's been great so far."

Among NHL rookies, Lindblom is tied for third with 10 points (four goals, six assists). The only first-year players with more are the Canucks' Elias Pettersson (17) and the Senators' Colin White (11). 

Both were first-round picks. 

The Flyers snagged Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.

"Just trying to think quick and read where the puck is going to go and see where your teammates are," Lindblom said. "That's a big part of the game and if you're good at that, you'll have a lot of goals and good passes."

The passing ability hasn't surprised Dave Hakstol. What the Flyers' head coach likes best is the effort prior to the plays. When Lindblom is battling and exerting himself, he stands out because the other tools are already evident.

"He's had that. The thing that comes before that, though, is the ability to come up with the puck," Hakstol said Wednesday. "I hope that's not lost on anybody. For me, that's one of the most important things that he brings to that line. 

"I didn't think he had a great [game Saturday afternoon]. He just wasn't on his game and it all starts with his puck battles and him being able to come up with the puck and create possession for that line.

"He's got a real talent and an ability there, and [Tuesday] night he was on it. When he's got the puck, good things happen because he's got good hockey sense."

What makes Lindblom's start even more notable is that all of his damage has been done at even strength. With the return of James van Riemsdyk, Lindblom won't be on either of the Flyers' power-play units.

That's no problem with him.

"We have a lot of good PP guys here, so you can't say you have to be on a power play," Lindblom said. "You just have to keep battling 5-on-5 and if you're good enough, you'll be on a power play.

"Just have to do my thing and be ready every game. Can't have a day off."

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Flyers film review: Oskar Lindblom building office behind net

Flyers film review: Oskar Lindblom building office behind net

When all went wrong for the Flyers two weeks ago, the scoring dried up at the expense of the coaching staff tightening up the system to cover up for the team’s defensive deficiencies.

The Flyers failed to create quality scoring chances and relied too heavily on perimeter shots, which has been an often-used strategy during the Dave Hakstol era to mixed results.

They weren’t creating enough from down low in high-danger areas. During their three-game losing streak, they scored two goals in 180 minutes, but it wasn’t for a lack of shots on goal.

In fact, the Flyers outshot their opponents, 87-80. Not exactly a huge margin, but still. What the numbers say backs up the eye test too. The Flyers were not creating dangerous chances.

Out West, the Flyers rediscovered their scoring touch. They tallied 11 goals in the first three games, outshooting their opponents, 92-87, but also shooting more from high-danger zones.

One player, in particular, who helped the Flyers shift away from being a perimeter team in California is 22-year-old winger Oskar Lindblom, who had a career week in the Golden State.

Lindblom had the most productive week of his brief NHL career, one that saw the strong possession numbers translate into point production, which pleases both crowds of fans.

With back-to-back multi-point games and a three-game point streak, Lindblom enters Monday carrying momentum along with his linemates Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek.

It’s a small sample size, but Lindblom set up shop behind the net and went to work, in puck battles and creating opportunities. Three of his four assists last week came from this area.

Let’s take a look at the film to explain why the Flyers need to create more offense from this area and what Lindblom does so well there.

Patrick game-winner

There was a lot to like about Patrick’s goal Tuesday. Robert Hagg held the line twice, allowing for the offensive-zone time and Lindblom went directly to his workspace around the net.

Lindblom was camped in front of the net on Hagg’s second keep-in, which allowed him to get to the puck easily behind the net. Before he scooped it up, he surveyed his options and saw Patrick maneuvering his way into the slot where there was a huge pocket lacking Ducks.

Patrick beat Ryan Miller on a “perfectly bad shot.” But without Lindblom’s yeoman's work, this goal never happens.

Simmonds' goal in L.A.

On Wayne Simmonds' goal Thursday, Lindblom's work behind the net was on full display. Lindblom scooped up a rebound behind the cage, backhanded in front, followed through, and then held off Adrian Kempe in a battle before hitting Simmonds for the one-timer.

The zoomed-out look gives you a good perspective of Lindblom's vision of seeing Simmonds sneak into scoring position.

This angle shows you exactly where he hit Simmonds on the tape.

Voracek goal in San Jose

On the first two plays we looked at, Lindblom had sustained work down low leading to him picking up an assist. This goal was slightly different but the same premise.

It was a fast-moving play with a delayed penalty after Brent Burns tripped Ivan Provorov on a mini-break. Lindblom simply gathered the puck behind the net, looked at his options and threaded a slow-moving pass into an area where Voracek was heading.

This was a good example of why attacking defenses from behind the net should be a strategy the Flyers adopt more often.

The Flyers began attacking more from down low in the zone, and as the cliché goes, they got pucks deep and created offense from it.

We can formulate theories as for why the Flyers were looser out West, but they adopted an attacking offensive strategy that they hopefully will stick to going forward.

The results in California were encouraging — Lindblom especially. Let's hope the Flyers keep the tape from last week pinned to their Twitters.

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Flyers weekly observations: The sky isn't falling after all

Flyers weekly observations: The sky isn't falling after all

Last Sunday, the sky was falling. The Flyers were utterly embarrassed one day after their head coach called publicly called them out.

It was hard to see the light and emotion got the better of all of us. The Flyers went out West and rediscovered their way. Sound familiar? The same thing happened last season after their losing streak reached 10 games. Some observations from the week that was:

• Let's begin with Saturday night's 4-3 overtime loss in San Jose because the wound remains fresh and it still very much has an impact on how this road trip finishes out.

The Flyers' OTL loss hurts. Sure, we can fall back on the "they got a point" narrative, and against a Sharks team that is expected to compete for a Stanley Cup and smoked the Flyers last month in Philly, we'll take it.

But the Flyers had three leads in San Jose on Saturday and left with a loss. That's not an easy pill to swallow. With one more game left on this West Coast trip, Monday night in Arizona, this loss has the potential to knock the train back off the rails.

We're going to find out a lot about this team's backbone, which last Saturday, after the Islanders loss, was non-existent. They fought hard this week and did a lot of really good things in California, but Saturday's loss is a painful one.

• Nolan Patrick found the burst that we haven't seen from him this season this week with an explosive three games in California with five points in three games.

Patrick scored the game-winner in Anaheim with a shot he described as "one of the worst shots I’ve ever taken" by going to a scoring area and finishing.

After a two-assist game in Los Angeles Thursday night, Patrick scored his second goal of the week just 37 seconds into Saturday's game in San Jose.

The Flyers were banking on Patrick to take the next step in his development after an injury-free summer, but we haven't really seen the same jump we saw in the second half of last season from him.

That changed out West as Patrick began clicking with Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek. With James van Riemsdyk nearing a return, Dave Hakstol is going to have an interesting decision to make with his top six.

• Speaking of Lindblom, man, can this dude flat-out make plays behind the net, an area the Flyers desperately need to create offense from.

Lindblom too had a monster week — five points — recording his first career multi-point game Thursday and following it up with another Saturday.

There was a common denominator on his four assists last week: He set up shop behind the net for most of them. Check out his vision from behind the red line on Voracek's goal:

The advanced metrics are encouraging and we're finally seeing some of that translate into point production. I really like how Lindblom and Patrick work together.

• Another big positive from this week was the play of the team's third line of Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise in the past two games.

It's kind of a weird trio … but it's working. There was one shift, in particular, that really stood out to me. It was just before Claude Giroux' goal in the third period.

With the Flyers up 3-2, the trio went to work with relentless forecheck and puck possession in the Kings' zone. They killed time and wore down the L.A. defense and shortly after, Giroux potted his goal.

In the last two games, Simmonds, Weal and Weise have combined for two goals and four assists. Not bad production from a line that features a player who was waived before the season (Weise) and another who was a healthy scratch earlier (Weal).

• I didn't think Ivan Provorov had a slow start to the season. In fact, I thought he was poor. He was making costly and out-of-character mistakes. But he was the one player on this team I wasn't worried about.

This week proved that (see story). Provorov has a three-game point streak with two goals and an assist on this trip, but that's not what impressed me most.

Provorov was calm and collected and logged big minutes. It was the first time this season we saw that version of Provorov, and it's an encouraging sign as we move on. Provorov is back.

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