January 14, 2019 was something of a turning point in the young NHL career of Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom. It was in that game, a 7-4 home win against the Minnesota Wild, that Lindblom saw his role start to significantly expand under interim head coach Scott Gordon.
Lindblom did not record a point in that game, but he was placed on the penalty kill, moved up in the reconstituted 5-on-5 lineup, and skated a then career-high 17:14 of ice time (since eclipsed multiple times). He forechecked very effectively, and had a pair of shots on goal.
Since that time, and continuing into the first five games of the 2019-20 regular season under new head coach Alain Vigneault, Lindblom has started to blossom offensively. He has played 41 games — the statistical equivalent of one-half of a season — and scored 16 goals and 24 points.
The Swedish forward has done so while generally continuing to exhibit the strong play without the puck that enables him to make positive contributions even when not scoring. He’s a regular on the penalty kill and also sees ice time on the second power play unit.
“Of course it feels good to play in a lot of situations. That’s what every player wants,” Lindblom said on Sept. 20. “We have new coaches here and I just want to play good and be a player they feel confident putting out on the ice.”
Over the first four games of the new regular season, Lindblom played on a line with Sean Couturier (a frequent linemate in the second half of last season) and the red-hot Travis Konecny. In Wednesday’s game in Vancouver, Lindblom skated with Kevin Hayes and Jakub Voracek (Lindblom’s other frequent second-half linemate from 2018-19).
“We have a lot of skilled players on our team. They get a lot of attention from the [opposing] D. If you get open, they can get you the puck in good areas,” Lindblom said of his scoring uptick.
Always a tenacious forechecker and strong along the walls, Lindblom had been an offensive slow starter in his North American career to date. That has not been the case this season.
Both in the AHL with the Phantoms and then upon his NHL recall to the Flyers, he struggled for numerous games to tally his first goal. Last season, after scoring on opening night in Las Vegas, it took until game 7 in Columbus to get No. 2 and until game 13 to get No. 3.
This season, Lindblom already has three goals and four points in five games.
He benefited from some puck luck on a power play goal in the opener against Chicago in Prague. Against New Jersey in the Wells Fargo Center opener against New Jersey, Lindblom shoveled a loose puck across the crease to Couturier for a slam-dunk. In Vancouver, Lindblom got open in the left slot to receive a tape-to-tape feed from Konecny that he buried into the near side of the net for a power play goal that tied the game at 2-2 in the third period.
After a pointless game in Calgary — one that saw Lindblom double-clutch on a 2-on-1 feed from Konecny just long enough for Flames goalie David Rittich to get over for a save — Lindblom got back on the scoresheet late in the third period of the team’s 6-3 loss to Edmonton. On that goal, Lindblom created traffic in front of the net along with Hayes and deflected home a Voracek shot from up high.
One of the many benefits of Lindblom having moved up to a more expansive role in the lineup is that it is easier for a player to put a mistake or a bad game behind him quickly. He knows he’ll be right back out there the next shift.
Early in his NHL career, Lindblom had a quiet and reticent personality in the locker room. Although he’ll never be the boisterous prankster type, ala Konecny, the Swede now participates in the joking and locker room banter that is part of everyday life on hockey to alleviate the pressure that comes along with the job.
That’s just another way in which it is easy to see that Lindblom has become a confident young NHL player. He has found his identity as a player and is fully incorporated into the team’s internal dynamics.