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.