Last season, Oskar Lindblom’s battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, was an inspirational story for us all.

We were all Oskar strong. Many of us wore purple, or held up placards with his name on it. No one wanted to see the young, personable Flyer go through such a difficult fight.

But his story inspired no one more than his teammates, who fought with him and for him in more ways than one.

The Flyers learned of Oskar’s illness on a road trip out west in December of 2019. It took them some time to process it and understand it. Hockey was secondary – and it showed in the games. The team was in a fog. It was losing games, and they weren’t pretty.

Then, they came home, Oskar paid the team a visit, spirits were lifted, and they decided to play for their teammate, dedicating the season to him.

Frankly, it was the best hockey being played in Philadelphia in at least eight years.

There was an inspirational return in the summer, that almost willed the Flyers through a second round matchup with the Islanders in which New York dominated. And while Oskar had his Mario Lemieux moment, and returned to the ice a mere eight months after his diagnosis, it only was enough to get the Flyers to a Game 7 before they had their doors blown off.

This season has not been as inspiring for Lindblom, or his teammates. After scoring a goal in each of the first two games of the season, Lindblom slowly became less and less involved in the offense. It was obvious he was struggling. Here was a young man trying to resume his career at the highest level in the world with a new approach. A new body. A new everything. He had to figure it out all over again, and the Flyers were willing to give him time.

That time went from a few games, into a few weeks, into two months. When finally, as much as the team was rooting for him and giving him as much time as possible, coach Alain Vigneault had to sit down with one of his favorite players and tell him he needed to come out of the lineup because he play was not up to par.

It stung for Lindblom, even though he was fortunate in a way that he didn’t have to participate in the historically bad loss at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, as a professional athlete, there’s a lot of pride, and you want to play in every game, no matter how dire the circumstances.

So, with the season on the brink, and the Flyers given a choice to go one of two ways – turn around their season 24 hours later or take that last step off the ledge into the abyss, maybe it was apropos that the guy who inspired them to play great hockey because of what he was dealing with off the ice a year ago, was one of the guys who saved the season – for one night anyway – while on it.

Lindblom scored two goals as part of a stellar performance by his new line with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny, as the trio combined for seven points, as the Flyers defeated the Islanders 4-3 at Nassau Coliseum Thursday night.

It was a dominant performance for about 48 minutes, got really hairy over the next six-and-a-half as the Islanders finally broke through and exploded for three goals, and then ended euphorically with Lindblom netting the game-winner on a perfect play by that line.

And while the game did get a little too close for comfort late in the third period, it wasn’t because of a total team implosion.

Carter Hart should have handled a weak wrister from Michael Dal Colle, but didn’t. A shot from Sebastian Aho (no, not that one… and for the record, isn’t it nuts that there are two professional hockey players with that name?) took an unfortunate deflection off of Travis Sanheim’s stick and beat Hart over his glove, but the play was defended well. And finally, Giroux missed whiffed on an interception of a pass from Nick Leddy to Oliver Wahlstrom, and admitted he was late to get to the area on coverage of Wahlstom allowing the Islander forward to bang one home to tie the score.

Nevertheless, you can’t blow a 3-0 lead in the third period, and that’s what the Flyers did. But, the difference is, as well as they had played all night and the fact that these goals weren’t the result of a complete breakdown of the system, the team stayed with it, believed in itself, and pushed back, ending with this beauty of a play by Lindblom and the rest of his line:

It starts with a faceoff win by Giroux, who truly is one of the best in the sport at winning draws (he ranks third in the NHL this season at 61.5%), a smart wrap around by Myers, great board work by Lindblom – which was the best part of his game Wednesday, never mind the two goals – and then an awareness to get to open ice so that TK could make a beauty of a pass to him for a one time shot that goalie Semyon Varlamov never saw because of a perfect screen by Giroux.

I identify all of those steps, because those are the little things you have to do in a hockey game to create the opportunities to win it. Win a faceoff. Put the puck in deep, win a board battle, find open ice. Make smart passes. Go to the net. Get shots through.

These are things you hear in the sport all the time, and the Flyers executed each one flawlessly on this play, and it got them a regulation win – which, by the way, was the first regulation loss at home by the Islanders this season. They were 12-0-2 coming in to the game.

Lindblom’s other goal was the result of great work by the line as well:

Again, a great play along the wall by Konecny to steal a puck in the neutral zone and carry it into the zone. He even takes a hit from behind to hold the puck long enough to snap a pass to Giroux for the one-timer. Varlamov makes the save but there’s Lindblom – going to the net – to put the rebound in to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

“I was extremely pleased with how he played tonight,” said Vigneault. “Not just because he scored us the game winner. He was strong on pucks. He was skating hard. Hopefully that’s the start of something real positive for him and our team.”

Speaking of the team, AV repeatedly praised Giroux and alternate captains Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, Jake Voracek, and Kevin Hayes for their leadership in getting the team to put the 9-0 embarrassment against the Rangers behind them and getting the team focused on rebounding in a back-to-back situation against an Islanders team that had been rolling of late.

The Captain Delivers

“At the end of the day, our captain and his assistants really took the lead,” Vigneault said. “Nobody was happy about (Tuesday). This is a proud group. They are professionals. They’re competitors. We laid it all out tonight.”

That wasn’t all. Vigneault felt the need to reiterate just how important Giroux was to this effort.

“I really thought our captain led the way,” he said. “He led the way in the preparation. He led the way on the ice. Now we’ll rest up tomorrow and get ready for another big game on Saturday.”

It should be noted that the first quote came on a question about Lindblom and the second came on a question about Hart.

No one was asking questions about Giroux, but Vigneault wanted it to be known that it was primarily Giroux, with some help from the rest of the leadership group, who guided this team to such a stark turn around.

That’s no accident. For a coach is is not always kind to his veteran players (just go back to the “big boy pants” press conference, but there were others) for him to heap praise on a player such as Giroux lets you know that the captain’s efforts really stood out to him.

We all know Giroux is a fierce competitor. He wears his emotion on his sleeve. But he is often criticized as a leader because of a perception that he is too quiet, or that the team hasn’t won anything while he’s been captain.

It should be obvious that isn’t the case.

We already saw two plays where Giroux was a big contributor, but he also scored a goal in this one:

What you don’t see on this replay is the fine board work by Oskar Lindblom behind the net to get the puck to TK who finds Nate Prosser open at the point for the shot.

Giroux, once again, gets in a good spot on the ice, and is able to deflect the shot home past Varlamov for his seventh goal of the season.

Six of Giroux’s goals have come in the last nine games. He’s starting to rack up the points as well, as he now has 23 points, which isn’t quite a point-per-game pace yet, although it’s getting there, is the same amount as Alex Ovechkin, if you are looking for a comparable this season.

Oh, and he can be funny with the media, despite what a lot of people (including some in the media) think. Here he is having a little fun with Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski:


  • Prosser’s assist on Giroux’s goal was his first in the NHL since Feb. 27, 2018. Yeah, it’s been a while.
  • Hart wasn’t great, but wasn’t terrible either as he continues to work his way back from a miserable stretch of games. That said, he won consecutive starts for the first time since beating the Devils and Islanders in the last two games of January. So, consider it a positive step forward.
  • The Flyers announced Robert Hagg was put on IR prior to the game with a shoulder injury that will likely keep him out of action about a month.
  • With an injury on defense, the fact that Shayne Gostisbehere remains a healthy scratch behind guys like Prosser and Erik Gustafsson must mean the coaches really don’t like the way he plays in his own end because he has been more productive on the offensive side of the coin of late.
  • Don’t look now, but Jake Voracek is also starting to heat up. Like Giroux, he has nine points in his last nine games, and goals in two of the last three contests, including one against the Islanders that was a pretty one-timer:

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