The television guy asked the Flyers executive about the sense that the team was bored by the regular season, always looking ahead to the playoffs, always rating themselves like a good jockey trying to finish the race. Well, he didn’t say it quite like that, but you get the idea.
The executive, team president Peter Luukko, said all the right things about being banged up and losing your edge a little and, hey, the NHL is so deep that on any given night you lose an overtime game here and there.
What he didn’t say is how the players know the mayhem that lies ahead. They have been there and they know the price it exacts. So they make their decisions during the regular season. What is necessary to give on any singular night and what is not. Once the playoffs arrive, there are no decisions.
Those games. Every faceoff is a knife fight. Every check is a hard check. Every lazy pass is taken away. Every breath-catching glide back through the neutral zone might be interrupted by a stick across the back of the neck. If a feint near the crease only results in an ankle whack from the ill-tempered defenseman, that’s getting off easy. There is the understanding there might well be blood on the ice.
The Flyers have been there. They are now there again. They have made their decisions and gotten themselves to this point where the decisions are no longer their own. They are without their figurative heart, the essential element they all want to be, Chris Pronger, but they have played well without him, or anyone else, when they have that edge thing going.
Maybe it isn’t an ideal way to enter the playoffs, hurt in a bad way, drifting a little toward the end, but those games are coming again, and the Flyers know how to play that way. They might not go as far this season, but they will be just as tough an out as ever. A very, very good team. Enjoy the ride.