In the cloak-and-dagger world of espionage, they call it “turning’’ a spy into a double-agent.
Hockey trades aren’t quite so clandestine. A general manager picks up his cellphone on Feb. 25, makes a call and the next thing you know, ex-Montreal Canadien center Nate Thompson becomes a member of the Flyers.
No trenchcoats here, no secret code-busting.
But you can bet a bag of nickels Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault pulled Thompson aside and “picked his brain’’ as soon as he found out he was going to be playing Montreal in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
“First of all, having Nate who’s such a pro – the way he prepares himself, the way he competes, the way he is with his teammates, that’s his first and foremost value,’’ said Vigneault during a Zoom call on Monday as the Flyers prepare for Game 1 vs. the Habs on Wednesday night (8 p.m.) at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
“He comes to play and he plays hard. Obviously in our preparation for the Montreal Canadiens, we did pick his brain on what we saw on video. He’s been here a short amount of time, he’s been a real valuable player as far as bringing his game to the table every night. In this preparation for Montreal, there’s no doubt we did ask him a few questions.’’
The 35-year-old Thompson has been centering a fourth line with Tyler Pitlick and most recently rookie Connor Bunnaman. If Michael Raffl (undisclosed injury) can’t go on Wednesday, the aforementioned trio probably will play against Montreal.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux said Thompson provides veteran leadership, never mind what inside information he might be bringing from the Habs.
“He battles every shift,’’ Giroux said. “He doesn’t take a shift off, doesn’t take a practice off, he’s always ready to go. He just knows how to be everyday. When you have a guy coming in like that, you can see the younger guys kind of follow.’’
Kevin Hayes was in a similar situation this past regular season. He spent the better part of five seasons with the New York Rangers and when he signed here, no doubt he shared some information about the Blueshirts.
“It helps when you have someone who was on their team for the last two years,’’ Hayes said. “He knows the ins and outs of the organization, what they do. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge game-changer. But it definitely helps us.’’
Thompson will do what he can but there’s so much video/digital scouting nowadays that there really aren’t too many secrets.
“I think teams do so much video and coaches are so prepared,’’ Thompson said. “We just have to worry about us. Nothing changes. My game’s the same. We have to be ready. I think our team can be a little better. Hopefully we can bring that against a really good team.’’
>Power play in a rut
Although the lack of execution on the power play didn’t hurt the Flyers in the round robin, the team knows it can’t continue to struggle with the man advantage and expect success against Montreal.
The Flyers have gone 0 for 11 against Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay.
If Jake Voracek, who missed Saturday’s 4-1 win over Tampa Bay with an undisclosed issue, can’t go on Wednesday, that could make matters even worse.
“Definitely our execution has been off,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s an area that I mentioned a few times that we’ve been working on. Fortunately the schedule here is giving us a couple more days (of practice).
“We’re only starting Wednesday so we’ll be able to work on the power play. Hopefully we can get it to where it needs to be. It’s definitely a weapon during the series, something we have had confidence in, especially in the 20 games prior to the stoppage of play. I expect us to be able to get back to that form.’’
If it’s any consolation, Montreal went 0 for 12 on the power play against Pittsburgh, so maybe there’s something in the formula for winning to suggest the importance of the power play isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“It’s just one bounce away, I think, from happening for us,’’ Travis Konecny said. “When things aren’t going well, you just try to simplify and get back to the original game plan.
“We talk a lot about the ‘A’ scoring chances and the ‘B’ scoring chances. We’re just going to try to stick to the A’s, make the simple plays, get to the net. That’s when everything starts to open up. I’m not saying it’s going to work right away but it’s going to be a big part of our game in the playoffs.’’