It will be 143 days since the Flyers played a meaningful hockey game, so do you think they’re a little excited?
When the Flyers take on the Boston Bruins at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the first of three round-robin games for seeding purposes, there figures to be a pretty high level of emotion.
If it’s anything like the game between the two teams back on March 10 (the last before the pandemic pause), with the Bruins ending the Flyers’ nine-game winning streak, then it should be a fitting lead-in to real Stanley Cup playoff action in a couple weeks.
Goaltender Carter Hart pretty much spoke for the entire team when he said he’s looking forward to this match.
It’s his first taste of postseason action and because the Flyers really can only go up in the seedings, it might be the perfect setting to get his feet wet.
“It’s been five months for all of us,’’ Hart said in a Zoom teleconference call from Toronto on Saturday. “We’re all in the same boat coming into this bubble, having not played a game of hockey in a long time or at least a meaningful hockey game (the Flyers did play the Penguins in an exhibition game on Tuesday).
“So tomorrow will be nice to get out there. I’m sure the emotions will be high, being our first game, we’re playing for something. We’re playing to improve our seeding, so it will just be nice to get out there and play an intense hockey game.’’
Kevin Hayes and Nate Thompson are both playoff veterans so they might not be experiencing as much in the way of nerves as some of the younger players on the Flyers.
But opening night is still what it is, a chance to play in a more intense environment, even if the building isn’t full with fans.
“Obviously it’s been a while,’’ Hayes said. “Especially where we left off as a team, we’re trying to get back to that. It’s exciting. The games are starting to matter.
“You can practice as much as you want but nothing really emulates a game. I know all the guys are really excited.’’
Thompson has played in 62 postseason games over a 15-year NHL career so he knows what to expect.
“You saw the intensity of the first couple games today (Rangers vs. Carolina; Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton),’’ Thompson said. “I think every guy wants to get back to that intensity, play high-level games.
“This is what it’s all about. It’s playoff hockey, so it has a chance to do this, get it going. I think myself, and everyone included, is excited.’’
Thompson said he believes this edition of the Flyers resembles some of the better playoff teams he’s been on. He’s been impressed by the closeness of the team.
Both he and Derek Grant felt included right off the jump when they came to Philadelphia at the trade deadline.
“This group has a lot of fun together,’’ he said. “I saw it right when I got here. It’s a core group of guys that have been here for a while. It’s an inclusive group. Everyone is brought into the herd. I feel I’ve been here a lot longer than I have been. Everyone hangs out together.
“I’ve been a lot of different teams; the teams that I’ve been on that are good have that special group of guys where everyone hangs out together. This group has that and I’m just happy to be a part of it.’’
There’s a possibility the Flyers might not see two of the Bruins’ better players. Star first-liner Brad Marchand reportedly suffered some sort of core injury in a preseason game against Columbus and starting goaltender Tuukka Rask also is listed as questionable.
Hayes said if Rask doesn’t play (Jaroslav Halak is the backup), the Flyers won’t make any adjustments.
“I don’t think so,’’ he said. “It’s playoff time. I don’t think it matters (who plays in goal). It’s more what your team does. Are you prepared in what you do to get ready for the game?
“I know in our locker room we’re really focused on what we’re going to bring to the game. Hopefully, if we do that we’ll come out on top.’’