Lindblom Provides Motivation Once Again for Flyers
In early December, Oskar Lindblom was the Flyers leading scorer with 11 goals and helping the Flyers to make some noise in the standings. He had become a part of the team’s top-six forward group and was coming through regularly with a big goal or big play.
Then, he got a diagnosis that changed everything. It was Dec. 10, the day before the Flyers started a three-game road trip against Western Conference teams. The rest of the hockey world learned of his diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma three days later on Dec. 13.
Since the diagnosis, the Flyers have leaned on Lindblom for motivation, especially as the hockey world increasingly showed support for the Flyers forward.
When the Flyers lost all three games of the road trip following Lindblom’s diagnosis, he paid a visit to team facilities before their game on Dec. 17 against Anaheim. They won, 4-1, and won the next three games after that.
Shortly after the Flyers returned home from a 1-4-1 six-game road trip over New Year’s, Lindblom attended the game against Tampa Bay on Jan. 11. The Flyers lost that afternoon, 1-0, but won four of their next five games entering the All-Star break.
In late February, Lindblom again paid a visit to the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers won against the Jets that afternoon, 4-2, the third win of a nine-game winning streak that spanned right up to before the NHL’s pause.
Ahead of Game 3 of their playoff series on Sunday, one day after his 24th birthday, Lindblom was back on the ice for practice in Toronto, able to join his teammates in the bubble, just less than two months removed from his final cancer treatment. They bounced back from a 5-0 loss in Game 2 with a 1-0 win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Lindblom’s presence alone is a lift for the Flyers. And every time they seem to need added motivation, they see Lindblom. And it works.
“It’s always a boost when he’s around,” Robert Hagg said. “It was fun seeing him on the ice again. I’ve seen him a lot lately, but he’s fun to have around the locker room. I think he’s enjoying it too.”
“I think the energy, you could feel it in the morning skate,” Jake Voracek said. “It was way better than in past games. Part of that is that we have Oskar back.”
“We expected to see him if we make it further and deeper into the playoffs. Next thing you know he’s at the hotel two weeks later,” Michael Raffl said. “That shows enough, how much the boys mean to him and he means to the boys. It was great to have him here. It’s great to have him back on the ice.”
Alain Vigneault noted that the coaches were practically in tears as the team saluted Lindblom with stick taps as he led stretches at Sunday’s morning skate. Vigneault has commented several times about Lindblom, his demeanor during this time and how his smile has been such an uplifting thing to see. Sunday was just another example.
“Having Oskar around our group, he was finally able to come out of his hotel room a day ago,” Vigneault said. “Yesterday was a recovery day for our group. Today was his first official time that he skated with his teammates since the news. I think he was real nervous, real excited to be back with the group. The group was obviously ecstatic to have him back even though it was just a morning skate. Great young man. Beautiful smile. Happy to have him around.
Obviously, this means a great deal to Lindblom too. He hasn’t been able to spend extensive time around the team. He was finally participating in his first practice with the team on Sunday morning. But in the times he hasn’t been present with the rest of the team, they made sure that he still felt like a big part of it.
“It’s been everything. They’ve talked to me as I’ve been on the team, even if I’m not there,” Lindblom said. “Those tough weeks when I felt so bad and trying to think about life, they’ve called me and text me. Helped get me more energy and it helped me through the whole process. Now I’m here and happier than ever.”
Whenever Lindblom is able to play remains to be seen. It could take several weeks, it could be a month, it may not happen at all during this postseason. Lindblom said himself that he doesn’t want to play in a game if he can’t help the team and he wants to be able to know that he can handle the physical nature of the playoffs. That said, there’s no way to find out if or when Lindblom will play if the Flyers don’t make a bit of a run.
“It’s obviously going to take him definitely a couple of practices, a couple of weeks. Obviously we’re going to talk to him every day and see how he feels,” Vigneault said. “Listen, the kid went home, wanted to see his family and friends after being cleared, then decided to come back to the bubble, spend eight days in his room.
“He wants to play. He’s going to get himself in shape and ready to play. We’ve got to do our part and continue playing.”
For most of the year, Oskar Strong was the rallying cry that powered the Flyers. Maybe that statement by Vigneault can be the current rallying cry. Do your part. Keep playing. And maybe, just maybe, No. 23 will be back on the ice again this season as a result.