Three days into training camp and no Philadelphia Flyers players have opted out of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals. Veteran players are back in full to help navigate a deep run towards a championship. The new playoff format from the NHL in this pandemic shortened season presents possibly the hardest path to Lord Stanley’s trophy. One player who has been a mainstay with the Flyers for nearly the past decade has been Jakub Voracek. The former All-Star spoke with the media via a conference call on Tuesday.
“We were skating with a lot of NHL players, a lot of ex-players. We were scrimmaging a lot every Tuesday and Thursday in Prague. I’ve never skated this much in the summer. I think it’s going to be an advantage for me because I had that opportunity to skate.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
It is music to the ears of the Philadelphia Flyers fans. A team that was borderline elite in the regular season has the opportunity to regain their chemistry and be the best conditioned? The Flyers are familiar with the ice in Prague from their first game this season. Since Voracek was able to not only skate but scrimmage twice a week, he is prepared for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Voracek notes that this return to hockey blocks the noise of the current circumstances.
“We just go into the playoffs and try to win. When you’re at the rink or when you’re going to be in the bubble, you don’t really think about the outside noise too much. That’s good.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
Treating the playoffs and hockey as a slice of normalcy doesn’t mean romanticizing the circumstances of these playoffs. Jakub Voracek is keeping his focus on the task at hand and not treating these playoffs any differently than before. The agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL upon the return-to-play schedule has been a hot topic among sports. These players and staff realize what they are getting themselves into. That’s confirmed after no Philadelphia Flyers players have opted out of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“We’re getting tested every day, I think for us it’s the safest place to go for this time duration. I’m not worried about it. It’s something that we’ve never experienced, but it is what it is.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
Adjusting to the Expanded Playoffs
Take a moment and try to remember the last time you played an organized sport without a single fan in the crowd. I can’t remember and that’s likely the case for these players. The atmosphere that a home crowd or away crowd creates is going to leave a void in these playoff games. Every player that steps on the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers imagines reaching the top of the hockey world alongside their fans. As much as Philadelphia misses attending games, the Flyers miss their fans.
“It’s going to be weird, but it’s a good thing we have some games to play before the playoffs start, to kind of get used to it and see how it feels.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
Brian Elliott echoed the same sort of sentiments. As a goaltender, balancing the mental aspect of the game could be tougher without fans because it’s unusual. Jakub Voracek thrives in a frenzied building. Another player that has, especially at home, was Carter Hart. The locker room really has taken Hart under their collective wing.
“Obviously he was one of the best goalies in the league at this early stage of his career. We’re real lucky to have him on our team and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
Carter Hart isn’t the only person who will get his first taste of the playoffs with the Philadelphia Flyers. The same can be said about Alain Vigneault and Chuck Fletcher. Those two have installed success in this franchise during their first season together. While the round-robin re-seeding may change the outcome of who the Flyers play in the first round, it doesn’t dictate the pace of an entire playoff run. With eight additional teams added into the Stanley Cup playoff format in 2020 and players opting out, the expansion playoff teams could forge their way into a quality post-season.
“You don’t know what kind of team is going to be in the best shape game-wise. You could end up playing Montreal, but because they have a lot of young players that it’s easy for them to get into it, they may be more dangerous than Boston.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
In any case, the Stanley Cup playoffs are a war of attrition. The healthiest and most prepared teams will last the longest. It’s a blessing that the Philadelphia Flyers can play five games, including the exhibition against the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 28th, to adjust to game speed. The play-in teams are facing elimination immediately. What relieves the Flyers is that they have time to understand who they are this post-season before they enter an elimination series.
Re-Establishing Their Regular Season Form
“We had a practice, Coots and G, we finished the season together in March and we were really comfortable out there. After four months, it’s good to be back with them.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
To replicate the Philadelphia Flyers’ regular-season form would be remarkable. Just before the suspension of the 2019-2020 season, the Flyers were buzzing high. Carter Hart began to improve on the road, Shayne Gostisbehere returned in a solid outing against the Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia was playing tough against quality teams. Re-kindling that magic is clearly something the Flyers are striving for. It begins with getting back to the drawing board alongside Alain Vigneault and the team.
“It gives us confidence that the same team that is basically here right now was one of the top three or four teams in the league for about three or four months before the stoppage. So everybody’s excited about that. We’ll see in the bubble, we’ll see in the playoffs. We have a good team here and a good shot to make a run.”Jakub Voracek; 7/14/20
All signs point towards great optimism within the Philadelphia Flyers locker room. Just about everyone is available as usual for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs after four months to recover from lingering injuries. The same cannot be said for other teams that are included in these playoffs. Familiar players return to re-establish team synergy under Alain Vigneault’s leadership. The Flyers are favorites to make run for the Stanley Cup in 2020 for good reason.