Oskar Lindblom headed into Wednesday night’s game against Toronto still looking for his first goal of the season.
But offensive production, or lack thereof, really isn’t the headline. It’s more about the fact Lindblom is participating in his first full 82-game season since he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer – back in December, 2019.
Just seeing him still playing in the National Hockey League is inspirational enough for his family, friends and fans, not to mention his teammates.
Lindblom, who ended treatments in July, 2020 and has been diagnosed as cancer-free ever since, remains a key figure in the public battle against the disease. Overall, he’s played well on a line with Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk and the rest of the Flyers believe it’s just a matter of time before the puck starts going in the net for the young Swede.
Even though he looks and feels well, it’s going to take some time to get back to the player he was in 2019, when he led the Flyers in goals before he got the word about his health.
“It’s a long season, you take days off when you can get them. . .it’s a tight schedule,’’ Lindblom said following the morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “It is what it is. You have to be ready everyday, do the work and hopefully there’s a payoff at the end of the year.’’
The Flyers’ early 6-2-2 start can only help matters because no individual player feels the pressure to produce. Prior to Wednesday, Philadelphia had allowed only three regulation-time goals in its last three games so players such as Lindblom are doing the job defensively.
“I mean you want to score,” a smiling Lindblom said. “But you want to win games. Hopefully one is going to bounce in soon.’’
Laughton’s line was matched up against the Alex Ovechkin line in Washington during Saturday night’s 2-1 win over the Caps in D.C. There’s a good example of strong two-way play.
“We shut them down,’’ Lindblom said. “Of course you want to score more but as long as you play good. . .’’
No doubt teammates’ support has helped a lot.
“I think that’s one of the biggest parts,’’ he said. “When you get together as a group, you’re going to play more for each other out there, more like a family. We have a good group in there and I think it’s getting better.’’
This the National Hockey League’s Hockey Fights Cancer Month and Lindblom’s story once again will come more into public focus. Lindblom won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last season for among other characteristics, “perseverance,’’ and he certainly epitomizes that courage.
>Better team defense
During his recovery time from a hip/groin injury Ryan Ellis has watched the Flyers really cut down on their goals allowed per game. Through 10 games, the Flyers had not allowed a team to score more than four goals in regulation time.
Considering the Flyers finished dead last in goals-against average last season, this is a big improvement and some of that success can be attributed to better five-man defense, rather than just relying on defensemen to clean up the mess in the Philly zone.
“The game is not played defense plays defense and forwards play offense,’’ Ellis said. “Usually the teams at the top of the standings always have defense helping offensively as well as good forwards helping defensively. One of my ex-coaches was always about five-man attack and defending. I feel that’s the way the league is going. You can’t be out there as a forward or defenseman (and being) a ‘liability.’ Everyone is so good now they’re all committed to both ways with the puck. That’s the way the game is now.’’