VOORHEES, N.J. – In a bygone era, the Philadelphia Flyers might have been better served with the name Philadelphia Fighters.
The love affair between a working-class town and a pack of rowdy Canadians began a generation or two back but still has a ghostly presence on many nights at the Wells Fargo Center.
Thing is, those Broad Street Bullies could do more than just throw punches (see the names engraved on the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cups). They could block shots, kill penalties and check you back onto your bench.
The current Flyers have their own set of such multi-purpose players, including Zack MacEwen, Nic Deslauriers and Nick Seeler.
They do all the aforementioned chores plus now, with so many frontliners injured, they’ve even been chipping in on offense.
When coach John Tortorella first arrived here, one of the first things he said was he liked Philly because it’s a blue-collar kind of place and can appreciate the Flyers’ ongoing commitment to hockey played with more than a bit of grit.
“That’s part of the game,’’ Tortorella said after Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center. “What went on last night early in the game (fights involving MacEwen and Deslauriers against a couple New York Islander roughnecks), I think we have the ability to play that way. ‘Mac’ was involved with that,
“I think it’s an important part of what we’re trying to build here. Based on where we’re living, in Philly. We’re just starting to build. I think we have a great opportunity, as I’ve said, to play to the city, to grow toward what the city is about.’’
Seeler has been leading the team in plus-minus which shows he can be more than just a minutes muncher. He concurred with his coach that being versatile has its benefits.
“We’re standing up for our teammates, standing up for ourselves,’’ he said. “It’s part of being a team, part of our identity. Last night is a prime example of what we’re trying to bring every night. ‘Delo’ and ‘Mac’ did a great job.’’
Nothing gets the home crowd out of its seats faster than a fight and the Flyers didn’t waste anytime against the Islanders. MacEwen needed only seven seconds to get things started and Deslauriers followed that up exactly one second later.
“I think they do appreciate that style and that type of game,’’ Seeler said. “It definitely feels good when they have your back. You can hear the crowd, what it does to the building and what it does for our bench, too. We definitely hear it, we definitely appreciate it.’’
Normally fourth liners or third liners at best, both MacEwen and Deslauriers have been seeing playing time on the top two lines, mostly due to the number of injuries but partly because they’ve held up their end of the deal.
“Mac has brought a ton of energy, the forechecking. . .Delo, you know what you’re getting out of him every night,’’ Scott Laughton said. “They do their job, it’s a tough job. But they do it for the boys and what’s to come. I have so much respect for those guys. I can’t say enough good things about those guys.’’
An offense-minded player like Joel Farabee acknowledges the importance of having “protection’’ provided by his enforcer crew.
“Those guys are crucial to this team,’’ Farabee said. “They’ve been contributing offensively but the presence they bring with the fighting is key. When guys are playing us they really don’t want to play against them. We love having them and they play a really tough game.
“I don’t think they get enough credit. For me personally, they’re a huge part of this team.’’
Tony DeAngelo, who was injured in Saturday night’s game at Long Island and did not play in Tuesday’s rematch in Philadelphia, did not skate on Wednesday and is presumed out for Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay. Tortorella said he had no updates on Travis Konecny (hand) or Cam Atkinson (upper-body injury) although both skated on Wednesday.