The Flyers acquired center Nate Thompson from Montreal at the trade deadline because he was good in the faceoff circle, a solid penalty killer, and someone who could provide veteran leadership in the playoffs.
Little did they realize he would be able to give them insight on their first playoff opponent, the Canadiens.
Heck, at the time Thompson was acquired Feb. 24 for a fifth-round draft pick in 2021, the Canadiens had little chance to make the playoffs. That was before the coronavirus pandemic halted the regular season and altered the playoff format.
The Habs, of course, stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round, and here they are, meeting the top-seeded Flyers in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series that starts Wednesday in Toronto.
Thompson, 35, downplayed the fact that he can give his teammates firsthand information on the Canadiens’ tendencies.
“I think teams do so much video and coaches are so prepared, especially at this time,” he said. “I think we just have to worry about us. For me, nothing changes. My game is the same. I’m going to go out there and do things I do.”
Referring to Claude Giroux, Thompson added: “Like G said, we have to be ready. I do think our team can get a little bit better. I think we had a good round robin, but I think there’s a little bit more there. Hopefully, we can bring that against a really good team.”
Having Thompson relay info on the Canadiens “obviously helps our team,” center Kevin Hayes said. “… I don’t think it’s going to be a huge game-changer, but it definitely helps us.”
While with Montreal, Thompson was a mentor to young centers such as Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Now he’ll be going against them.
“It will be a little bit weird, but at this time of the year in playoffs, there’s no friends out there,” Thompson said. “They’re both very good young players. You saw them against Pittsburgh. They were a huge factor in that series.”
In the three-game round-robin, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Thompson scored a goal, won 19 of 27 faceoffs (70.4%), and helped the Flyers kill 9 of 10 penalties.
“He battles every shift,” Giroux said. “He doesn’t take a shift off. He doesn’t take a practice off. He’s always ready to go. He’s been in the league for a while. He just knows how to be [prepared] every day. When you have a guy coming in like that, you can see the younger guys kind of follow.”
Alain Vigneault: “I think with the Flyers, this is as close as you can get to coaching an Original Six” team. ... The Flyers are 11-2 to win the Stanley Cup, according to BetOnline. That’s second to Cup favorite Colorado (5-1). ... The Flyers are 3-3 in playoff series against the Habs; the teams last met in the postseason in 2010, when Michael Leighton had three shutouts as the Flyers beat the Canadiens, four games to one, and advanced to the Cup Final.