With age comes experience. And wisdom. And, apparently, advances in technology.
Brian Boucher has been the recipient of all three in the NHL - both on and off the ice.
It is Boucher's experience off the ice - with nutrition, diet and interaction with his body's signals - that has enabled him to continue his NHL career into its second decade.
Ten years ago, when his career first started, Boucher notoriously struggled with cramping on the ice during games. There was no medium in hydration for Boucher; his muscles either would be deprived of water because of profuse perspiration, or he would flood his system to compensate.
Thanks to a new slush drink that the Flyers' medical staff has concocted to cool the body quicker and allow it to recover faster, Boucher hasn't had any problems cramping up on the ice in as long as he can remember.
Walk into the Flyers' locker room on any given day and you will see a slush machine that looks just like those in a 7-Eleven or Wawa. But while the frozen treat - which starts as a green-tea extract and comes in different fruit flavors - might taste good, it provides important nutritional replenishment that can be tailored for each individual's sweat loss.
"Each individual loses electrolytes at a different rate," Flyers trainer and strength coach Jim McCrossin said. "What our research has been on is the electrolytes and how to get the proper amount of electrolytes back in them."
For some, that would sound as simple as drinking a Gatorade, which some players still do.
But for most, Gatorade can't replace the levels of sodium, potassium and magnesium, which can be added as a supplement to any given slush drink. The fact that the drink is frozen - and not room temperature or a little cooler like Gatorade - cools down the players' internal organs quicker.
That, in turn, reduces core body temperature, slows sweating and begins the healing and recovery process faster. If used during a game, as Boucher does during stoppages, it can make a big difference.
Boucher typically will consume two cups per period during a home game and four in any given practice. The only downfall is that because the machine is so big, the Flyers don't lug it around with them on the road.
"They certainly cool your core temperature down a lot quicker," Boucher said. "I use them a lot in practice, too. I'm one of those guys that sweats a ton. It's ridiculous the amount that I sweat. For me, it's been nice.
"Let's put it this way, I haven't had any issues with cramping. As I've gotten older, I've tried to keep myself much more hydrated. You think you're drinking enough and you're not. Or you're drinking, drinking, drinking and you almost feel sick or bloated. It's one of those things, it's a fine line."
McCrossin joked that the story shouldn't give away the Flyers' secrets, as he believes they are the only team in the NHL to use the slush drinks. McCrossin, who has worked more than 1,000 games as the Flyers' trainer, said Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder shared the idea that he found in an Australian magazine about rugby.
"Don't share our secret until after we win the Cup," McCrossin said.
The Flyers' advanced sweat-rate studies, McCrossin said, found some players' core body temperatures rising to as much as 103 degrees. At 106 degrees, the body begins to shutdown and organs start to fail.
"Once it reaches 106, you start to die," McCrossin said. "Some of our shifts, we are getting up to 103 and then come back down, then go back up the next shift before coming down. The cycle continues. What we want to do at the intermission is to cool down the core temperature as much as possible and get sodium back in because you don't want fatigue."
Before the playoffs begin, McCrossin said the Flyers will undergo a series of blood tests to check for any deficiencies in the players' lactates. They will check for deficiencies in things like Vitamin D or iron.
"If you're low, let's take a look at it," McCrossin said. "Because we want to do everything we can to fine-tune an athlete before the playoffs come."
One of the most interesting result from McCrossin's heat-rate and sweat-rate study was the fact that the Flyers' European players consistently sweat less than the North American players. Also, the Russians - like Sergei Bobrovsky and Nik Zherdev - sweat more like the North Americans.
"We don't know why," McCrossin said. "I'd be making up an answer if I tried. Kimmo Timonen, who plays as much as he does, hardly sweats at all, while Boucher sweats like a mad dog.
"We have to believe it has to do with lifetime diet, but we don't know."
For McCrossin, simple things like the slush drinks he concocts in the Flyers' locker room do not translate directly into wins and losses - as far as anyone can tell. But he will take any edge he can get, especially if it means healthier players.
"You're always looking for an edge," McCrossin said. "There are supplements out there to help fill in the gaps, but this is about replacing the things you are losing. You've got to find the voids, fill them and get the players back to 100 percent. The playoffs are long, hard and hot."
NO CHAMPAGNE SPILLED
For the Flyers, there was no champagne popping in the locker room on Saturday night in Dallas. In fact, there was no celebration at all - except for the usual high-fives after the game.
With Saturday's shootout win, the Flyers became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth. And it was just like any other win, even though the Flyers clinched more than 3 weeks earlier than last year.
"We've never talked about clinching a playoff berth," Peter Laviolette said. "We've always talked about home ice, all rounds, starting in our building, Game 7, if it comes to that."
Jeff Carter called it "just another step in our process."
Still, Laviolette has his sights set on Vancouver. The Flyers are seven points back of the Western Conference-leading Canucks, but have two games in hand.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," Laviolette said. "There are teams right behind us. And, you know, Vancouver isn't out of reach. We've got a couple games in hand that we can play and try and get on the backside of them as well."
The Flyers reassigned rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson to AHL Adirondack yesterday morning. Gustafsson played the last two games in place of healthy scratch Nick Boynton, averaging a little more than 8 minutes per game. The Flyers have just six healthy defensemen on the roster now . . . The Flyers had a complete day off yesterday. They are 4-0-2 in their last six games and went 2-0-1 on their recently completed three-game road swing in Florida,
Atlanta and Dallas.
Shootout wins for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Consecutive seasons in which Mike Richards has posted at least 20 goals. He collected his 20th tally on Saturday in Dallas.
Flyers with at least 20 goals: Richards, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
The Flyers will host the red-hot Capitals in a nationally televised matchup on Versus, hence the unusual 7:30 start time at the Wells Fargo Center. Washington is enjoying 3 days off after shutting down the equally hot New Jersey Devils on Friday. The Caps, who have won 12 of their last 14, stand little chance of catching the Flyers in the East over their last eight games if they don't win tomorrow. Alex Ovechkin has reignited with 21 points in his last 16 games.
Thursday, 7 o'clock
The Flyers have not faced the Penguins, who are still without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, since Dec. 14. Now they will play them twice in a span of just 5 days. Other than Pittsburgh's lineup, not much has changed in the standings. The Penguins are still lurking close behind. Crosby skated briefly last week for the first time since early January, still suffering from concussion symptoms. Until last week, he was still in the Top 10 in scoring despite missing close to 3 months. Malkin is out until August with a torn ACL and MCL.
at New York Islanders
Saturday, 7 o'clock
The Flyers make a quick hop to Long Island on Saturday night. They are 4-0-0 against the last-place Islanders this season, gunning for a season sweep. Two of those wins came in overtime. The Flyers have outscored New York, 15-7, this season.
Sunday, 7 o'clock
The Flyers wrap up their season series with the Bruins, who are in peril of losing the Northeast Division to Montreal with a recent 4-3-3 span, despite beefing up their lineup at the trade deadline. Rich Peverley has posted just two goals and two assists in 12 games since coming over from Atlanta, where he had 14 goals and 20 assists in his first 59 games.