It might be prudent for teams such as the Flyers to take notice how underdog teams such as the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders have performed in the current Stanley Cup playoffs.
Both teams have reached the NHL’s round of eight without a real superstar, if you don’t count Habs goaltender Carey Price.
While highly regarded talents such as Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid study online sites for available tee times, the Canadiens and Islanders are brushing up on the Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning respectively.
Montreal and New York both finished fourth in their divisions and weren’t given much of a chance against heavy hitters such as Toronto and Winnipeg in the North Division and Pittsburgh and Boston in the East.
But the Canadiens pulled off a miracle against the Maple Leafs, rallying from a 3-1 deficit by playing smart, good teamwork hockey – then swept the Jets after Winnipeg top scorer Mark Scheifele put a dirty hit on the Habs’ Jake Evans and sat out the rest of the series.
Meanwhile, no one could really be surprised by the way the Isles handled the Penguins, simply because the New Yorkers play a much more physical brand of hockey than the Steel City crew. When you have young burners such as Matthew Barzel buzzing around up front and a savvy veteran like former Stanley Cup defenseman Nick Leddy patrolling the back line, the battle is half over.
Likewise the demise of Boston. While the Bruins did get off to a good start, they lack depth beyond their brilliant first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Plus, is there a better coach in the business right now than New York’s Barry Trotz?
If next season does return to a sense of normalcy, the Flyers should bank on trying to replicate what the Canadiens and Islanders have shown – that they can get the job done with younger guys such as Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, plus veterans Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier. No superstars in that bunch.
Coach Alain Vigneault insists the Flyers can return to the form they showed before the pandemic stopped their surge in March, 2020.
Maybe so. But even if general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t go out and make a big splash via trades or free agency, there shouldn’t be any more excuses.
Again, both Montreal and New York have demonstrated a strong 20-man effort can overcome the odds. It’s possible that with a few changes here and there, the Flyers can make some noise with the aforementioned approach when the next postseason arrives.
>Free agent possibilities
The NHL free-agent period doesn’t start until July 28 but that doesn’t mean a number of potential unrestricteds can’t be considered now.
Any good fits for the Flyers, you ask?
One name that caught our eye was the Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri, a 30-year-old right wing who makes “only’’ $4.6 million.
Coming over from the Devils to the Islanders in a trade deadline deal, KP didn’t show much during this past 60-game season, recording only 10 goals.
But in the playoffs: Seven goals in 12 games. That’s the kind of player the Flyers could use in crunch-time situations.
Whether Islanders crafty GM Lou Lamoriello will let this sort of talented player reach free agency remains to be seen.
However, if he should hit the open market, that’s one player Fletcher might want to consider.
>Hart Trophy thoughts
The finalists for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) were just released and all three – Edmonton’s McDavid, Colorado’s MacKinnon and Toronto’s Auston Matthews – are worthy candidates.
But here’s hoping Boston’s Brad Marchand received consideration somewhere down the ballot.
In my book, he does more than any of the named finalists. He can score, set up plays, works the power play and penalty kill, trash talks, chips and chirps like Bobby Clarke and just might be the best player on the best line in hockey.
In the 2018-19 season, he came up just four penalty minutes short of achieving a rare double: 100 points, 100 penalty minutes.
You know who some of the other players to reach this elite plateau are? Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Sidney Crosby, Bobby Clarke and Rick Tocchet.
Just sayin’. . .