1) The semifinals for the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia are set. There will be five Flyers players participating on Saturday as Alain Vigneault's Team Canada (Sean Couturier, Philippe Myers, backup goaltender Carter Hart) takes on Team Czech Republic (Jakub Voracek, Radko Gudas) at 1:15 p.m. EDT in a game that will be televised on NHL Network. In the earlier semifinal, at 9:15 p.m. EDT, unbeaten Team Russia will take on Finland. For a rundown on a wild quarterfinal round that saw two successful late-game comebacks (Canada and Finland) and one that fell short (Team USA), click here.
2) Gold medalists each of the last two years at the Worlds, no upper-echelon team in the tournament was more disappointing than Team Sweden, although Team USA was a close second. Tre Kronor suffered regulation losses to the Czech Republic and Russia (in blowout fashion) in the preliminary round and also needed a late empty-net goal in a tied game against Latvia -- a boon that came about solely because the Latvians needed a regulation win to stay alive in the medal round race -- to earn a regulation win. In the medal round quarterfinals, a shaky performance from Henrik Lundqvist and a few costly breakdowns led to blown leads of 3-1 and 4-3 in a 5-4 OT loss to Finland.
3) Although Rikard Grönborg is rightly regarded as an excellent head coach and a potential future NHL head coach, he pushed the wrong buttons several times in this tourney. For example, his usage of Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom left something to be desired. The two-way forward opened the tournament with a four-game point streak, including three goals (two on the power play). Nevertheless, as soon as some more experienced NHL players became available, Lindblom was dumped to the bottom of the Swedes' lineup.
Lindblom spent each of the final three games riding the pine as a 12th or 13th forward, playing a whopping single 10-second shift in the quarterfinals. When the chips were down, Grönborg and his staff decided to sink or swim with veterans such as Loui Eriksson (-3, 16:51 TOI in the QF game) and Marcus Kruger (-2, 18 shifts) over rising talents such as Lindblom or New Jersey Devils forward Jesper Bratt.
The progression of the World Championships was somewhat reminiscent of how Lindblom's usage was severely cut by Dave Hakstol near the end of his tenure as Flyers head coach. Lindblom started the season on the PK but was removed for the remainder of Hakstol's tenure after he inadvertently deflected a puck that caused a San Jose power play goal in the Flyers' home opener. He was not restored to the PK until Scott Gordon took over as interim head coach, and soon proved to be one of the team's most effective forwards on the penalty kill.
Offensively, Lindblom had a surge in late October and early November, posting eight even-strength points over seven games (2g, 6a, +8), but was dropped to the fourth line almost immediately after James van Riemsdyk returned from injury. A big part of the reason why Lindblom subsequently had a lengthy point drought was that he frequently had nights of playing less than 10 mins of bottom-the-lineup duty (including 5:18 vs. Ottawa on Nov. 27 and 4:38 vs. Columbus on Dec. 6) and then was a healthy scratch in Vancouver in favor of Jori Lehterä on Dec. 15 in what proved to be Hakstol's final game as head coach.
Once Gordon got up to speed as Flyers head coach, he started to show the same faith in Lindblom that he had in Lehigh Valley. Over the final 44 games of the season, Lindblom produced 13 goals and 21 points and saw both PK duty and periodic second power play unit assignments. It will be interesting to see next season how Lindblom, in his second full NHL campaign, is used by Vigneault and forwards/ power play coach Michel Therrien.
4) Memorial Cup: Due to tiebreaking formulas that affected the three teams that posted 2-1-0 records in the round-robin (the 0-3-0 Prince Albert Raiders were already eliminated), the single-elimination semifinals on Friday will pit the OHL champion Guelph Storm against the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies with the winner playing the tournament host Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). Game time is 8 p.m. EDT. Guelph captain Isaac Ratcliffe has four points (one goal, three assists) in three games.
5) Today in Flyers History: On May 24, 1974, the Stanley Cup champion Flyers acquired Reggie Leach from the California Seals for Al MacAdam, Larry Wright and a 1974 1st-round draft pick (Ron Chipperfield).
6) Today in Flyers History: On May 24, 2010, the Flyers closed out the Eastern Conference Final with a 4-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens. With the victory, the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the eighth time in franchise history.
After spotting the Habs a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the first period, the Flyers settled down. A shorthanded goal by Mike Richards at the 4:25 mark tied the game. On the play, Richards raced over the middle for a loose puck. Challenged by a defender and met by desperately sliding Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak venturing far out of his net, Richards dived headfirst and poked the puck past Halak toward the net. Popping quickly back up to his feet, the Flyers' captain claimed the puck near the left side of the crease and slid a backhander into the now-vacant cage. For more, click here.
5) May 24, 2019 would have been Pelle Lindbergh's 60th birthday: A simultaneous reminder of just young (26) the Vezina Trophy winner was at the time of his fatal car crash on Nov. 10, 1985, and how many years have passed since that time. Since that time, teammates Peter Zezel, Ilkka Sinisalo, Brad McCrimmon and Miro Dvorak as well as assistant coach E.J. McGuire have all passed away. Pelle's sister, Ann-Christine died of cancer less than two years after his death. Five years after Pelle's passing, his fiancee Kerstin Pietzsch married Tuve Somnell. She remained close to Pelle's mom and dad for the rest of their lives. Only the eldest sibling in Pelle's immediate family, sister Ann-Louise Hörnestam is still alive.
5) This week (May 23) marks the 90th birthday of Vic Stasiuk; the last living member of the team's original hockey operations staff. The hard-nosed former NHL forward, who twice led the Flyers-affiliated Quebec Aces to the AHL's Calder Cup Finals and then became the second coach in Flyers history, still resides in his native Alberta. He celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday with daughter Jae Jae.
Happy 90th birthday to Vic Stasiuk, the final living link to the @NHLFlyers original hockey ops staff (Quebec Aces coach then later the 2nd Flyers coach). Thank you to Vic's daughter, Jae Jae, for the new photo with her dad. pic.twitter.com/ac5zMLtggp