Back in their Broad Street Bullies days, the Flyers took on all comers, large and small. Many believe the orange and black’s pugilistic skills were the key factor in winning two Stanley Cups.
Which could help explain why there were so many smiles the other night when Philadelphia’s 6-foot-3, 205-pound left wing Zack MacEwen chose to take on the New York Islanders’ version of Goliath, 6-foot-9, 256-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara.
It was sort of like the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Rocky Balboa challenging the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
Well, MacEwen didn’t win that fight but he didn’t wind up on the canvas, er, ice either. In fact, he pretty much held his own, competition considered.
All this is a buildup to a few thoughts about MacEwen’s never-quit attitude, even in the midst of the recent franchise-record 13-game winless streak.
MacEwen has been pretty much the only constant on the Flyers’ workhorse fourth line. The cast of characters switches nightly. But MacEwen shows up game after game with the same energy – making himself difficult to play against.
And it’s more than just a willingness to fight. MacEwen seems to enjoy crashes along the boards and in the corners. He’s a whirlwind on the forecheck.
“You want to help the team as much as you can, be as consistent as possible,’’ the 25-year-old MacEwen explained after Tuesday’s pre-game skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “You do your best to help the team win.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo inserted rookie Isaac Ratcliffe on the fourth line with MacEwen and center Connor Bunnaman for last Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings and that unit performed well in a 4-3 victory, the Flyers’ first win in exactly a month.
“I think it’s been a relief for everybody, we’re trying to get out of this together,’’ he said. “To get a win the last game was a good feeling. I think everybody enjoyed that.’’
Of course, a player such as MacEwen can appreciate the boisterous Philadelphia crowds, much as the Bullies did a generation or two ago.
“It’s electric,’’ he said. “I felt that from game one. I really feel the love and support from the fans in that sense. I appreciate that. I know it’s something the fans enjoy. I’m hoping I can give them my best every game.’’
>Frost a game time decision
Center Morgan Frost, who missed Monday’s practice with an undisclosed illness, still wasn’t feeling quite up to far and skipped the Tuesday morning skate.
Yeo said Frost might still play against the Winnipeg Jets but it would be a game time decision. If Frost can’t go, Yeo planned to move Bunnaman up to Frost’s spot on the third line and use rookie Jackson Cates in the fourth line pivot.
>Hart gets the start
Carter Hart was scheduled to start in goal for the Flyers. Despite the long winless streak, Hart has hung in there and kept a lot of these games close.
“Goalies, it’s an immense amount of pressure they have to deal with,’’ Yeo said. “We weren’t scoring goals and making some big mistakes at big times. I thought he was bailing us out. I think he’s been ultra-competitive lately and I think he’s had a great attitude the way he’s been attacking every game. So I’m real happy he got that win for us last game.’’
>Flyers mourn passing of Nykoluk
When Fred Shero, the late, great head coach of the Flyers during their glory years, hired Mike Nykoluk to be his assistant, it was the first move of its kind back in the early ‘70s.
On Monday, Nykoluk passed away at the age of 87. Many veterans in the organization mourned the loss of a local icon.
The team issued the following statement:
“The Flyers are saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Nykoluk. Mike was the first assistant coach in Flyers history and is widely considered the first full-time assistant coach in the National Hockey League. He served under Hall of Fame head coach Fred Shero for three seasons and was instrumental in bringing back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975 to the city of Philadelphia. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike’s family during this difficult time.”
>COVID policy changes in NHL
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have announced updates to their COVID‑19 protocol.
The revised protocol combines the changes that have been made since the start of the season, and incorporates new changes to the most recently issued “enhanced measures” and testing requirements, including (without limitation) the following:
>Recommendation to receive booster vaccine(s) as they become available.
>Removal of “enhanced measures” and reverting instead to the start-of-season protocol.
>Updated recommendations for type of masks and steps to reduce community exposure.
>Removal of the requirement to test daily (i.e., “for-cause” testing only) for fully vaccinated individuals.
>Removal of the requirement to test close contacts.
>Updated requirements for in-arena family spaces, game presentation and on-ice ceremonies.
Collectively, most of these measures reflect a recent sharp downtown in the number of reported omicron variant cases across the U.S. and Canada over the past week.