Perhaps the only reason Oskar Lindblom didn’t win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last year was because he wasn’t able to return to action until the pandemic-paused season had ended and postseason play resumed in July.
By then, the voting had closed. Even so, Lindblom – who underwent treatments for Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) throughout the first half of 2020 — was a finalist for the honor, which is presented to the NHL player “who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, dedication to hockey.’’
Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan was the worthy recipient of the 2020 Masterton for his inspiring, winning battle to overcome alcoholism.
This season, Lindblom has fought back not only from last year’s illness but a bout with COVID-19.
People throughout the North American hockey community have rallied to support Lindblom.
As recently as two weeks ago, Lindblom received a standing ovation from Penguins fans in their first appearance of the season at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
There was a similar warm reception for him when he played in front of Flyers fans (a crowd of about 3,000) for the first time last Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
This season’s Masterton voting won’t be held for another month or so but, right now, Lindblom has to be considered not only worthy of the award but one of the favorites.
“I mean it (the ovation at WFC) was unreal,’’ Lindblom said after Saturday morning’s pre-game skate via media Zoom call. “The fans have been so good to me. Everyone around the city has been great to me, too.
“Just having them back here. . .to play for them, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I can’t wait until there’s a full house in there.’’
Going into Saturday night’s game against Washington, Lindblom had played in 21 of a possible 24 games, with two goals/seven points.
Lindblom said he’s learned something about himself through these past 16 months.
“I didn’t know what to expect,’’ he said. “I mean you see something both mentally and physically (challenging). . .it’s going to be a grind and I just have to keep battling. I feel like I’m getting there, one step at a time.’’
Besides hearing daily from his teammates, Lindblom also receives encouragement wherever he goes.
“I get texts from people everyday,’’ he said. “It’s cool that I have the people around me. I feel like I’m someone they can look up to and I can help them – they make me feel better, too, and give me a lot of energy, being that strong and how they are.’’
In Flyers franchise history, only three players – Bobby Clarke, Tim Kerr and Ian Laperriere – have taken home the Masterton Trophy.
>Myers back in the lineup
After a brief benching, defenseman Philippe Myers was scheduled to return to the lineup on Saturday night.
Coach Alain Vigneault reiterated what Myers has to do to stay in his good graces.
“He’s a young (23) player,’’ Vigneault said. “Part of the development of a young player is figuring things out. He needs to be stronger in one-on-one situations.’’
Vigneault spoke before the morning skate and said there might be a change or two in the back-six defense lineup due to “bumps and bruises’’ but didn’t want to commit to any moves until game time. The forwards from the Thursday night game against Washington were to remain the same, meaning Michael Raffl (hand) is still out and Andy Andreoff remains in his spot on the fourth line.
>Hart still in practice mode
Vigneault named Brian Elliott as his starter for Saturday night. He maintains Carter Hart will continue to work on his game. The Flyers are about to start a four-game trip in the NYC area so both goalies will be seeing action during that span.
“I just feel Carter needs a couple more days here,’’ Vigneault said. “We’ve all stated – coaches, management – our belief in Carter hasn’t changed. He’s going through a rough patch, he’s got to work himself through it.’’
Going into Saturday night’s game, the Flyers were just 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and sitting three points out of a playoff spot.
Vigneault was asked what his formula might be for getting a team out of a slump.
“I do think we’re trending the right way,’’ he said. “I like our compete level. I like the way the guys are battling, we’re never out of games. We’re always trying to push.
“Lately, our starts haven’t been as effective as they once were but it’s not from lack of effort.’’