The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are well underway and have been an overwhelming success. The Philadelphia Flyers are currently embroiled in a chippy series with the Montreal Canadiens, leading them 3-2. While the Flyers have had the better of the series so far, it has become evident that a bit of roster tweaking will be necessary for a deep playoff push. Luckily for them, reinforcements will soon be available.
Oskar Lindblom is one of the feel-good stories in the NHL this year, recently finishing his treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He has been able to rejoin the team and management has done nothing but stoke the flames regarding his rumored return to the lineup.
Having Lindblom return to just everyday life is a win in the eyes of the organization, but the young Swede was also the Flyers’ leading goalscorer at the time of his diagnosis 30 games into the season. He could prove to be a major boon for a team looking for better results, particularly from their bottom two lines.
Style Dictates Roster
The high-pressure, physical style of play Montreal has employed in their matchup has undoubtedly impacted the lineup decisions made by Alain Vigneault and Co., but the nightly roster can be optimized for more offense going forward. The current edition of the fourth line has had some nice defensive moments and Nate Thompson has been winning his faceoffs, but they are getting buried in terms of shot attempts and possession metrics in this series. The insertion of Lindblom can be the first step to remedying this problem.
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Placing Lindblom on one of the top three lines allows the Flyers to capitalize on their center depth, as they’d be able to shift Scott Laughton back to the middle on the third line and move Derek Grant to the fourth. Another option is to call up top prospect Morgan Frost to serve as the third-line center, pushing one of Laughton or Grant, or both, to the fourth line.
The Flyers have leaned on their forward depth for much of this season, but that same depth is not proving as effective in these playoffs. Both Frost and Lindblom have yet to experience playoff hockey, but the current setting of the Toronto bubble sans fans makes for a much smoother adjustment for young players. Another factor is the absence of James van Riemsdyk from the lineup. He has been delegated to fourth-line duty in the games that he has played in, and has been a healthy scratch in all others. A return to form from van Riemsdyk would also add some scoring punch to a lineup that has been needing it.
Much has been made of the team’s top goalscorers from the regular season not producing thus far this postseason, but an infusion of youth, skill, and creativity could provide the spark to get the offense going. Going up against the grinding style of the Canadiens as well as Carey Price have likely been the root causes of the Flyers’ offensive woes, but when this team is clicking on all cylinders, they come at opponents in waves. An ideal roster configuration could look something like the following:
Line 1: Joel Farabee, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek
Line 2: Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Oskar Lindblom
Line 3: James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Frost, Claude Giroux
Line 4: Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Defensive Pair 1: Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen
Defensive Pair 2: Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers
Defensive Pair 3: Robert Hagg, Justin Braun
Goalies: Carter Hart, Brian Elliott
The return of Lindblom is assuredly a major morale boost for the Flyers but his play should not be taken for granted, either. He can dominate board battles and is constantly in the right places on the ice. Frost, on the other hand, brings finesse and speed to the table. He is very dangerous when given time and space, two things that have been largely lacking in the current series. Adding either player to the lineup would give Philadelphia even more options, which will be key to Stanley Cup playoffs success.