Every playoff hockey team had to sit on its hands for the better part of four months, so there’s no point in listening to one particular team’s tale of woe.
In the Flyers’ case, though, there were some extenuating circumstances.
The team was playing its best hockey of the season – make that two or three seasons – when the pandemic brought proceedings to a screeching halt.
As well as the Flyers played in going 3-0 in the round robin, in eliminating Montreal in six games and in taking the Islanders to a Game 7, they never really recaptured the magic of that nine-game winning streak which brought them to within a point of the Metro Division lead.
No sense in crying in your beer over what might have been.
Yet in the big picture, how the whole thing played out just might give the Flyers some extra incentive next season – whenever that may start – to prove the February-March team was better than the August-September version.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov indicated the Flyers can’t use the pause (and post-pause) as an excuse but rather as a learning experience.
In truth, hockey might not get back to normal even next season if circumstances involving the global health crisis don’t change significantly.
There are even whispers hockey might not resume until as late as February and possibly still inside a “bubble’’ when it does.
“When the pause happened, it was very unfortunate because I think we were playing our best hockey,’’ Provorov said in a media conference call Monday afternoon. “We were clicking on all cylinders.
“But after the pause I think we came back, we were playing well. I think we could have went further, we could have played a lot better in some areas. I think there are a lot of positive and a few negative things that didn’t work out in the bubble and it cost us (in) the playoffs a little bit.’’
Even so, the Flyers did hang tough against the Islanders, clawing back from a 3-1 deficit to force that winner-take-all game.
The outcome of that game, a convincing 4-0 loss, was a bit disappointing.
“I think when we were in the bubble we weren’t as good at responding when we got scored on,’’ Provorov said. “We weren’t as consistent. Some games we did it well, some games we didn’t really do a good job of that, like we did throughout the whole year.
“So I think that kind of happened in Game 7. We were playing well, they scored the first goal, then we allowed them to score another, a quick second one. After that we tried but couldn’t tie the game.’’
Not having a productive power play (0 for 13 vs. Isles) didn’t help matters.
“Probably another reason why we didn’t score (overall) as much as we could have,’’ Provorov said.
Life in the bubble didn’t turn out to be as bad as forecasters made it out to be.
“To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect,’’ he said. “I thought it was just going to be kind of a hotel; we were going to just bus to the game rink and practice rink.
“But we had a lot more things to do. There were tennis courts, basketball, we could walk to the soccer stadium. We could kick the soccer ball around. It was a lot better than I expected. It was a good experience.’’
During the regular season, the Flyers went from a .500 team in 2018-19 to one on pace for over 100 points.
“I think compared to last year it was a massive step forward,’’ Provorov said. “We grew as a team. We added new pieces last summer that helped us a lot this year. We kept getting better throughout the year.’’
As for the future, Provorov says there’s cause for optimism.
“I don’t think we need to make huge changes,’’ he said. “We have great chemistry, lots of young guys that are ready to help.
“Overall, we just didn’t perform to the best of our abilities. I think if we played as well as we could, we could have gone way further than we did.’’
A second year under coach Alain Vigneault should be an exciting one.
“The guys have got to get some rest, then work in the time we have off,’’ Provorov said. “Then come back next season with the same energy and try to take another step forward.’’