VOORHEES, N.J. – Let the other Eastern Conference playoff teams body check, elbow, trip and rough each other up for seven games. The Philadelphia Flyers are pleased to rest and recover until they find out who they play in the second round.
The NHL sent a release Wednesday touting, “Playoff Excitement Peaks With Three Game 7s.”
Maybe in New York, Boston or Florida.
But post-season boredom has reigned in Philadelphia.
The Flyers haven’t played since Sunday when they eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. They likely won’t play again until this weekend, leaving their nights free to watch the playoffs and wonder if they’ll have to start scouting the Rangers … or Bruins … or Devils.
“We’re doing the best we can do right now and we’re doing it the best we can,” coach Peter Laviolette said Wednesday. “When the puck drops, our guys will be excited to play.”
It’s the playoffs, so they should be excited to play.
The key for Laviolette is to make sure the Flyers are as focused and sharp as they need to be against a team coming off the emotional high of a Game 7 victory and holding the home-ice edge.
The Flyers insisted the time off won’t dull their performance.
“When you’re watching the games on TV, you want to be playing,” forward Claude Giroux said.
The Flyers took Monday off as a reward for knocking out the Penguins before returning to practice the last two days.
Danny Briere, Jaromir Jagr and Kimmo Timonen earned another maintenance day of rest Wednesday. Injured defencemen Nicklas Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros practiced and could be available for the next round.
The lone entertainment until the second round is goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s question-and-non-answer sessions with the media.
How does he stay fresh?
“Eat more veggies.”
Is he bored?
“Yeah, I’m bored with you guys.”
On what it’s like playing for Laviolette.
“Sorry, I don’t have that flashcard for this answer.”
The Flyers don’t care if he’s quick with the quips as long as he makes the clutch saves.
They do care if they’re at full strength and the extended break can only help a battered roster. The Flyers will have forward James van Riemsdyk available from the opening faceoff after he missed the first four games against Pittsburgh because of a broken left foot.
Van Riemsdyk had been out since early March with a broken left foot and will likely play the rest of the post-season with a protective shield over his skate.
Van Riemsdyk can tell his teammates all about the empty feeling of watching games on TV instead of playing them. He scored only 11 goals in 43 games in a season derailed by the foot and a concussion. Van Riemsdyk stamped himself as a franchise cornerstone last post-season when he scored seven goals in only 11 games and earned a $25.5 million, six-year contract extension.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was such a believer in Giroux and van Riemsdyk that he traded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the summer.
Giroux blossomed into one of the game’s elite players and leads all post-season skaters with 14 points. Van Riemsdyk, though, had a tougher time because of the injuries.
He said he never felt the pressure of living up to the big bucks.
“The money part of it was great,” van Riemsdyk said. “But if I wasn’t making that kind of money, I would still want to be the best I could, no matter what. That didn’t change anything about my mindset or attitude. I didn’t let that affect the way I act and carry myself.”
Van Riemsdyk said it “killed him” to miss the first four games of the playoffs.
When the Flyers hit the road for Pittsburgh, van Riemsdyk, Meszaros, and injured forward Tom Sestito were left behind and watched at a Philadelphia steakhouse.
“I was just eating a nice dinner, rooting the team on, and trying not to get upset about not being there,” he said. “I guess the only decent part about it was there were a couple of other injured guys that were here. We tried not to worry about it too much.”
Once he was cleared to return, van Riemsdyk jumped back in the lineup and joined a line with Matt Read and Jakub Voracek. JVR—as he’s known to Philly sports fans—did not score a point in two games.
He does give the Flyers added depth at wing and last season’s post-season breakout makes it easy to believe he has another big series ahead.
“You just want to contribute,” he said.
Until Game 1, they all have to wait their turn.