While the health of the seven Flyers who may have contracted the coronavirus is obviously the main concern, the developments figure to make the team’s schedule more challenging.
That is, if the Flyers — and the rest of the NHL — can somehow manage to play 56 games, a number that looks more unrealistic each day.
The seven Flyers placed on the COVID-19 protocol list recently were Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Travis Sanheim, Claude Giroux, Justin Braun, Jake Voracek, and the injured Morgan Frost. That means they could have the virus or were around someone who has it.
The Flyers, now 8-3-2, have had four straight games postponed, so they will not have played for 12 days before they (hopefully) resume their season Thursday against the New York Rangers. Though it may not be feasible, they are scheduled to practice Monday, which would be their first time on the ice in a week.
Having been off for that long, they will need time to regain their sharpness.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been off that long when we played,” former Flyers center Danny Briere said earlier this week. “I think the only time may have been during the Olympics, when we’d get seven or eight days off. But when we came back, we also had five or six days of practice before our next game. I know when you’re off for that many days, you lose your timing. It gets away pretty quickly if you’re not skating every day.
“It’s going to be a bit of an adjustment, but, I mean, that’s what this whole season is going to be about,” added Briere, who is vice president of the Maine Mariners, an ECHL team owned by the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast Spectacor. “They’re not the only team going through it. You have to find a way to adjust on the fly. That’s the big thing that’s going to separate teams this season. It’s how you adapt to the different curveballs being thrown at you.”
Again, the health of the players is paramount, but from a competitive standpoint, the postponements should compress an already-crowded schedule.
The league hasn’t announced when the games (two with New Jersey, one each with Washington and the Rangers) will be rescheduled. The regular season is scheduled to end May 8, with the playoffs starting May 11. Both those dates could be pushed back because of COVID-related postponements.
The league would prefer to reschedule games before the end of the regular season. After all, there is still about 80 percent of the season remaining, and more postponements loom, so it’s important to keep end-of-season dates flexible in case they are needed.
As it stands, some teams are quickly running out of open dates to make up games. Buffalo, for instance, has six games it needs to reschedule.
More time for Elliott
Bottom line: the Flyers are expected to have more sets of back-to-back games than originally planned.
More back-to-back games mean more appearances for backup goalie Brian Elliott, whose re-signing in October for one year for $1.5 million has never looked better.
Elliott, 35, isn’t just a 13-year veteran who is a stabilizing voice in the locker room and a great mentor to Carter Hart. He is someone who can still play at a high level.
Other than a bad late goal he allowed that gave Boston a 2-1 win on Feb. 5, Elliott has been extremely effective. In five appearances, he is 3-1 (one no-decision) with a 2.19 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
“That’s a strength of the team,” Briere said. “Having Brian Elliott as a No. 2 guy is a luxury. When you have a guy who has been a No. 1 and could probably still be a No. 1 around the league, you basically have two No. 1s who are playing every single game. That’s a luxury not many teams have quite to that level.”
That, Briere said, is something that can help the Flyers “when they get to the stretch run.”
With a slew of weekly NHL postponements and 47 players on the COVID-19 protocol list heading into Saturday, let’s hope we get to the stretch run.