In some capacity, it’s certainly possible that all of the Flyers are back on the ice somewhere. Many of them have opted to work out at rinks in their local areas, but for at least five Flyers, Voorhees is once again home for training as the Flyers join the other 23 teams left in the picture for a return to play in the 2019-20 season.
Among the players that are participating at Voorhees are Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Ivan Provorov, Mark Friedman and Sam Morin. For these five players in particular, who are working out in the same building where Phase 3 training camp will begin on July 10, there is certainly an adjustment to trying to prepare for a stretch run and playoffs, especially with a lot of unknowns still out there.
“It’s different, for sure," Couturier said. “There have been so many unknowns; there weren’t really any set dates to when we were coming back. Usually you know around what date training camp is going to start and you get ready for an 82-game season. Whereas, now, you didn’t really know if we were going to resume the season, jump into playoffs, or just cancel and get ready for next season.”
“I definitely think it will be an experience that is very abnormal, but I think it’ll be kind of cool,” Farabee said. “Obviously you have to create your own energy and you have to get up for games, and I think the best team that is able to do that will come out on top. Obviously we want fans there and want to be playing in front of fans, but we want everyone to be healthy and be safe. If that’s what we have to do, then we’ll go with that.”
As the Flyers start to prepare, they are in the unique position of not only being part of the four-team Round Robin that can shuffle the top four in the playoffs, but also being the current fourth seed. The Flyers could win all three games -- set to be played against Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington -- and move into the top seed, or lose all three games and maintain their fourth-seed status. The possibilities of moving off and that nothing-to-lose mentality is not lost on Couturier.
“For us, the round robin is a great thing,” Couturier said. "We were seeded fourth, so we can only move up in our standing and our seeding. For us, it’s a nice situation to be playing for. I can understand some other teams being disappointed that they have to kind of win some games to keep their No. 1 or No. 2 seed. But in the situation we’re in and the conditions and all the unknowns in life, it is what it is -- and it’s what’s best, I guess, for this kind of situation.”
The challenge for the Flyers is going to be the same as around the league. The stretch run of the season was underway when everything was paused on March 12. Now, all 24 teams are going to come back into a playoff scenario where there is essentially no margin for error.
“Everyone that made the playoffs or the play-in is starting on the same ground,” Couturier said. “I don’t think there’s much momentum going in because it’s been a while since we played, but I think it’s going to be important to just get a good training camp in, work hard, and try to get better and get to our peak as quick as possible. Get going from where we were. We were playing some of our best hockey in our season and it’s going to be important to find that same level of play early.”
“You play however many games we played and you get that chemistry, you get that flow, and then the season goes on pause,” Farabee said. “I think the biggest thing is trying to get that chemistry back, get the flow going again. I’m pretty confident in all our guys that we can do that pretty well.
“Right now, we’re just kind of going with the flow and trying to get back in shape. We have a few guys at the Skate Zone working out every day, so it’s good to see that. I know when the season does resume, we’ll be ready.”
Phase 3 is scheduled to begin three weeks from Friday, signaling that the end could be near as the NHL looks to return. While there is plenty of uncertainty still remaining, some of the Flyers best from this season are looking to remain focused on the end goal, especially now that they are locked into the playoff picture.