The informal small group workouts of Phase 2 of the NHL's return-to-play plan have been underway since June 8. In the weeks to come, more and more Flyers players will arrive at the team training complex at the SkateZone in Voorhees in preparation for the July 10 start to training camp. Rookie left winger Joel Farabee is among the group of players currently doing on-ice and off-ice work in Voorhees.
Although he's champing at the bit to get going in earnest, Farabee knows that it's important to pace himself after the leaguewide pause for the Covid-19 pandemic took effect on March 12. Relatively few players around the league had access to rinks until Phase 2.
"I think it's maybe just a little more difficult just because you have less time to prepare," Farabee said on Monday.
"Usually you have a plan, kind of right now. I think we're just kind of going with the flow and trying to get back into shape. But, obviously, we have a few guys at the SkateZone working out everyday now. So it's good to see that and I know that, when the season does resume, we'll be ready."
Given the length of the pause between Phases 1 and 2, and the still-considerable remaining time until games resume in Phase 4, all the momentum the Flyers built before the stoppage will have to be reset.
"You get that chemistry, you get that flow and [then] the season goes on pause. So, I think the biggest thing is just trying to get the get that chemistry back and get the flow going again, but, you know, I'm pretty confident in our guys that we can do that pretty well," Farabee said.
Over the final 26 games before the NHL's schedule pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Flyers tied the Boston Bruins for the NHL's best record (19-6-1, 39 points, .750 points percentage). The team vaulted itself into an automatic playoff spot for Phase 4.
For purposes of Eastern Conference quarterfinal seeding, the Flyers will first play a round-robin against the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lighting. The Flyers cannot enter the playoffs as lower than the No. 4 seed, and potentially could enter as the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed depending on how they fare in the round-robin phase.
"That would be huge if you can acquire that first seed. That's obviously your goal, but, think we've put ourselves in a pretty good spot already. And you know, hopefully, if we [go in] with a few good skates and get those games under our belt, I think we'll be rolling once [the playoffs] actually start," Farabee said.
This season's revised postseason system -- which will have the 5th to 12th ranked teams in each conference engage in a qualification round mini-series before the winners play one of the top four seeds -- does not please everyone in hockey. But Farabee feels that it is as fair as possible under the circumstances.
"Personally, I think it's a good idea. Obviously, it's tough with everything going on to make everyone happy. But I think it's a good format for what it is, and you know, I'm excited to go through it. It's obviously something we've never done before, but I think it'll be a pretty cool experience," Farabee said.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this year's postseason -- born by necessity due to the ongoing pandemic -- will be the adoption of two "hub" cities (one in the east, one in the west) where the games will be held with no fans admitted. Farabee is determined to take it in stride, although he concedes that the setup will feel strange at first.
"It will definitely be an experience, you know, very abnormal but I think it would be kind of cool," he said.
"You've got to create your own energy and you've got to get up for games. And I think the best team that is able to do that is the one that's going to come out on top. So I think it'll be a cool experience. Obviously, we want fans there. We won't be playing in front of fans but we want everyone to be healthy and be safe. So, that's what we got to do and we'll go with that."