Shortened Season Heightens Importance of Hot Start for Flyers
In just a few weeks, the Flyers will embark on the 2020-21 season, returning to the ice for the first time since their playoff hopes were dashed by the New York Islanders in Game 7 in early September.
A strange offseason followed, with a lot of waiting around to see just when this day would come and how it would look when hockey returned. Now we know. It will be a 56-game sprint to the finish.
This is not the first time a shortened-season has happened for some of these Flyers. A lockout delayed the start of the 2012-13 season until mid-January too, and that was a 48-game season that, for the Flyers, was doomed by a slow start.
While this season holds some different circumstances, the importance of getting off to a hot start remains the same. With only 56 games on the schedule and every one within the division, there is little room for off nights and none for lengthy losing streaks.
“Obviously the less games there are, kind of the less margin for error there usually is,” James van Riemsdyk said on Tuesday. “You have to get off to a good start and go from there. When you are playing teams only in your division, you are jockeying for a position for playoffs. Each game becomes that much more important because there can be bigger swings within the standings.”
“Every year I feel like you see these teams that go on these 10 to 15 stretch wins where they get points. If that’s the case this year, they have a serious case to make the playoffs,” Kevin Hayes said on Tuesday. “It’s very important to start the season the right way. It’s very important for the guys on our team to show up to camp in shape and ready to go.
“I know in the past, the first ten games is kind of a walk in the park. It’s still tough NHL games, but everyone kind of knows, ‘oh he’s not playing very good, but he’ll figure it out come week 5 or something.’ That’s not the case right now. Everyone needs to be at the top of their game. I know coaches are working hard. We’re going to have a lot of meetings and a lot of film. There is going to be a lot of battling in that short ten-day camp.”
The Flyers schedule will be revealed on Wednesday, and while it is not known who they will face to start the season or the makeup of the schedule, every game will hold significance. Every game will count that much more. It’s up to the Flyers to be as ready as possible and to not let any early-season frustration or the occasional off night snowball.
The Flyers will enter the 2020-21 season with a healthy mix of young players, many trying to crack the opening night roster through camp, and veterans. For those that were part of the team’s playoff run in the bubble over the summer, the experience of playing in meaningful games constantly should be helpful this season.
“Anytime you play important games, I think it helps everyone. The older guys are used to it. The younger guys like [Carter Hart], Joel [Farabee], [Nicolas Aube-Kubel], [Phil Myers] and guys that have not played a lot of playoff games, it obviously helps them,” Hayes said. “It was a weird year. I felt like we had a lot of momentum and then the season stopped. We started playing really good in the bubble and then played against two good defensive teams. We fell one game short to the Islanders. Anytime you play in games that are very important and every player needs to be invested in, it can only help in the long run.”
The Flyers are hoping so, especially with a short training camp and then a 56-game sprint awaiting them, all against the difficult East Division that features five of their typical Metropolitan Division foes as well as new additions for this season like the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. It won’t be long before that race to be one of the top four in the division is on and the sprint begins.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.