The Philadelphia Flyers are scheduled to return to practice today after over a week off. They were scheduled to practice yesterday, too, but that was canceled. The Flyers still have seven players on the NHL’s COVID Protocol list, including a few of their top players.
Even with all of this, the NHL is going full steam ahead with the Flyers vs. Boston Bruins game at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
The NHL is walking a fine line with the COVID situation.
The Lake Tahoe game is a perfect example of that. The Flyers haven’t been on the ice in a week and still have several players on the COVID list. They will likely need to call up players for Thursday and possibly Sunday’s game at Lake Tahoe. The NHL marketed Flyers vs. Bruins all day during their Sunday broadcasts and aren’t shying away from it this week.
I get it. Having to replace a team in one of their most-anticipated games of the season certainly isn’t ideal. If they do, that would be the main storyline surrounding the game. It’d take some shine away from the action on the ice and the fantastic rink at Lake Tahoe. But maybe that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Things are taking shape. ❄️
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 15, 2021
By going ahead with this matchup, the NHL might be rushing the Flyers back into action in order to get them ready for their big game. On the other hand, perhaps the Flyers are pushing just as hard to get back for Sunday’s game. Nevertheless, it could be an unnecessary risk. The Flyers will only have a few days of practice after a week off the ice before Thursday’s game (if that happens), and then they’ll make the trek up to Lake Tahoe with whatever players they have in tow.
This is problematic for a few different reasons.
First and foremost, with how the NHL has already bungled the COVID situation, it’s not wrong to question their intentions. They reportedly refused to give the Sabres more information about the Devils’ COVID-related absences prior to their two-game set at the end of January.
Source: "Buffalo is furious. … They asked for more info from the league and from NJ on both Saturday and Sunday when Zajac and Palmieri went out" and they didn't get it. https://t.co/7sjs5AaHvU
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) February 2, 2021
Those were the two most recent games that the Devils played (they are scheduled to return tonight against the Rangers) due to a COVID outbreak. The same goes for the Sabres, who returned to action with a 3-1 loss to the Islanders last night. If the NHL had postponed those Devils-Sabres games, perhaps Buffalo wouldn’t have needed to be out of action for two weeks. But they didn’t. The games played as scheduled despite the start of an outbreak and both teams felt the effects.
This brings us to the Flyers. As of now, the Flyers have been off the ice for seven days and will have just 10 days between games. Both the Devils and Sabres had at least two weeks between games. That makes you wonder if there has been enough time to ensure the health and safety of the Flyers. Two weeks without games would mean that the Flyers couldn’t play in the Lake Tahoe game. While that would be disappointing for Flyers fans, it may be the right move.
Even if the Flyers are healthy and don’t have any more players added to the COVID list, the players out due to COVID-related reasons will downgrade the level of play.
Of the seven Flyers on the list as of Monday night, at least three are top-six forwards (Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek) with Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton as solid depth options as well. On the defensive side of things, Justin Braun isn’t a huge part of the defense, but he’s a solid member on the backend. Even if a few of those players are removed from the list by Thursday or Sunday, the Flyers will need to call up more than a few AHL-level players to fill in the gaps.
If the NHL wants a high-quality game showcasing two of their best teams, one of them having several players that the average fan hasn’t heard of isn’t good. The Flyers will (hopefully) still have most of their star power, but they might not be fully locked and loaded. Even with the current COVID absences, the Flyers may be a better option than their reported replacement, the Rangers, anyway. The Bruins, on the other hand, had no players on Monday’s COVID list and play the Devils on Thursday. All signs point to them being at 100% for Sunday.
Who knows; maybe the Flyers won’t have any additional players on the list and they’ll have most (or all) removed by Thursday or Sunday and everything will be fine. However, given the NHL’s track record this season, it’s fair to be skeptical of the situation.
Photo Credit: Heather Barry Images