PITTSBURGH – While second-year defenseman Ivan Provorov said he was so amped he was having a difficult time sleeping, the other Flyers who will make their first Stanley Cup playoffs appearance Wednesday night were excited but calm heading into Game 1 in Pittsburgh.
“A lot of people are going to be watching and it’s going to be a good atmosphere out there,” rookie left winger Oskar Lindblom said after the morning skate Wednesday, “but it’s still a hockey game. We just need to go out and do the same thing we’ve been doing in past games. Just take it as a regular game.”
Second-year winger Travis Konecny, appearing in the playoffs for the first time, agreed.
“It sounds like it’s a cliché, but it’s just another game,” he said before the opening faceoff. “There’s obviously more at stake as far as the end goal – winning 16 games and getting to the final – but it’s just another hockey game for us. We just have to stick in it together. There’s going to be some adversity throughout the whole playoffs and there’s going to be ups and downs, but we just have to stick together and grind it out.”
Rookies Nolan Patrick and Travis Sanheim said they were excited for their first chance to compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they seemed unfazed as they talked in measured tones about the task at hand.
“Playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs is something you dream about as a kid, and to have that chance is going to be a cool experience,” Sanheim said. “There may be a little bit of nerves early, but they should go away right away.”
Sanheim said “the intensity is going to be amped up and the level of play is going to be amped up. I think everyone is excited.”
“Looking forward to it; it should be a fun series,” Patrick said.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised his young players and talked about how they have matured and played more important minutes as the season has progressed.
“They’ve had a huge impact on our season,” he said, “and for us to be successful in the playoffs, they’re going to have to continue to play their role. … It doesn’t matter whether you’re a player going through this for the first time or a veteran player, the expectations are the same.”
“That being said, for those young guys, this is their first experience, and they’re going to have to be quick on the learning curve,” he added. “They’ve handled everything well that’s been thrown at them throughout the year; they all have pretty good poise, on and off the ice. I think they’re going to meet the challenge.”
The young players, especially the prank-loving Konecny, also keep things loose in the locker room.
“Those guys,” Hakstol said, “continue to lighten the mood.”
The Flyers recalled goalie Dustin Tokarski from the Phantoms, apparently to be with the team in case Brian Elliott or Petr Mrazek is injured. Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury) is still not ready. Tokarski, 28, was 19-8-7 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage this season with Lehigh Valley. He played well with Montreal in the 2014 playoffs. … Before Wednesday, eight players on the Flyers’ roster had never played in the Stanley Cup playoffs: Patrick, Konecny, Provorov, Lindblom, Sanheim, Robert Hagg, Jordan Weal, and Taylor Leier. … Val Filppula will play in his 153rd playoff game, tops among current Flyers.