Just having him in the lineup would have supplied enough inspiration for a weekful of games.
But Oskar Lindblom didn’t just play a token role in his return to National Hockey League action on Thursday night – he was a steady, consistent performer.
When the double-overtime game was over with a 5-4 Flyers’ win attached to it, everyone but the Flyers’ equipment staff was asked how much it meant to have Lindblom back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 7, 2019 when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
The answers were pretty much what you would expect and close to the ones you’ve been hearing for the past nine months as the 23-year-old waged his courageous battle.
He played a whopping 25 shifts over 17 and a half minutes with an even plus-minus rating. He even saw some power-play time.
As always, coach Alain Vigneault continues to be amazed by Lindblom’s comeback.
“Considering obviously what he’s been through,’’ Vigneault said in a Zoom call after the game. “It just shows you about the young man and his will to help. He comes back, spends a couple days in quarantine and starts working out.
“A month later, he’s helping his teammates win a Game 6 that’s giving us a chance at Game 7. Considering our situation tonight that ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier) and Joel (Farabee) weren’t available, for him wanting to play, just says so much about the young man.’’
Lindblom never seems to get too high or low and this game was no exception. He’s been working so hard that getting into a game and playing well seemed a bit matter of fact.
“It’s hard to step in the first game, especially one that we have to win,’’ he said. “But luckily we came out with a win here. I was trying to think positive thoughts through the whole chemo (treatments).
“I knew I was going to play one day but I didn’t know when. Today was the day and I was lucky to be out there and be with these guys.’’
Claude Giroux said Lindblom’s presence was a “huge boost.’’ As Lindblom stepped on the ice, the Islanders made a classy gesture by joining the Flyers in a stick-tapping salute.
“The kid has so much courage,’’ Giroux said. “He played unbelievable. He hasn’t played in such a long time. It’s been a long battle. His heart – you have to see it to believe it.’’
Added Carter Hart: “I don’t know if I can describe how proud we are of him. How much he means to this organization and to our team. A really special moment for him to come out, to see not only the support from our team but the Isles all standing up and cheering him on.’’
Ivan Provorov also expressed his emotions.
“”We’re happy to have him in the locker room and just around everywhere,’’ Provorov said. “I think we were all real happy to see him play his first game.’’
With Couturier sidelined, it helped to have Lindblom and Michael Raffl ready.
“We’ve been obviously talking,’’ Vigneault said. “Our medical staff and some of our coaches have been talking lately, obviously finding out how he feels. I talked to him this morning.
“Considering our situation this morning, I knew that Coots wasn’t going to be in and Joel wasn’t going to be in. Just asked him how he felt and told him how I would use him. Obviously going into five periods, I used him a little more than I anticipated. Great young man that wanted to help his team and he did.’’
>Ranking the OT games
At 35 minutes and three seconds of overtime, this game moved to third on the Flyers’ alltime longest games list. Of course the longest is the 5-OT/Keith Primeau game at Pittsburgh in 2000 (92 minutes, 1 second) followed by Mark Recchi’s winner in an OT game against Toronto (53:54 vs. Toronto in 2003). . .Hart made 49 saves. That’s fifth on the all-time list. Bernie Parent leads the list with 63 in a 1968 playoff game. . .The Flyers are now 22-0-2 this season when Kevin Hayes scores a goal.