The Flyers and New York Islanders, teams with similar styles, opened their best-of-seven series Monday knowing that, because of the schedule, it may be the most grueling set of playoff games they ever play.
If it goes seven games, the made-for-TV event will have two sets of back-to-back games. The first four games will be played in 5½ days.
The team that is in the best condition may be the one that advances into the Eastern Conference finals.
“That’s something that’s obviously going to be the same for both teams,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said before Game 1. “The number of games in a short amount of time is something that might be a little out of the ordinary. We do play four-in-six on quite a few occasions during the regular season. This case here we’re going to play four in five and a half days, but no travelling.”
Vigneault said it will be “interesting to see how players react. It’s going to be up to the coaches to decide who looks fresh, who looks like they have energy and can execute and perform on the ice. Each team is going to have some hard decisions as each game moves forward.”
In addition to keeping their goalies fresh, the coaches – Vigneault and the Isles’ Barry Trotz – may get some extra forwards and defensemen into the lineup to give players a break and keep the energy level high.
Because of the condensed schedule, the players in the lineup won’t have much practice time. The “extra” players, including Oskar Lindblom, are getting on the ice during off days.
“We’re making sure they’re ready,” Vigneault said. “We talk to those guys on a daily basis about making sure you are doing everything you can. You never know when you might be called upon. We’ve got quite a few players that are paying the price as far as keeping themselves ready.”
Vigneault said it’s “not an easy situation. A lot of guys haven’t played a game. It’s not your normal environment. You are confined to these quarters. I appreciate them working as hard as they are to stay focused and stay ready.”
If you were watching the broadcast of the Bruins-Lightning playoff matchup Sunday night on NBC, you may have noticed a jersey from the old Philadelphia Firebirds on display behind broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, who worked the game from his home studio in Michigan.
The jersey, which was worn by high-scoring right winger Gord Brooks in the 1977-78 AHL season, was loaned to Emrick by his close friend, Bruce “Scoop” Cooper, the former Firebirds public-relations director. Cooper is a longtime hockey historian who assists broadcasters at Flyers home games.
Cooper said showing the Firebirds jersey was “in honor of all those minor- hockey leagues that have not been able to have their own playoffs” because of the coronavirus pandemic.