Of all the players who benefited from having extra rest between playoff rounds, none benefited more on defense than Nicklas Grossmann.
From the time he was concussed in Game 4 against Pittsburgh until he finally got back on the ice on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New Jersey Devils, nine days had passed.
You never know what youre going to get from a player returning from a concussion, especially a physical one like Grossmann, who likes to bang players in the crease.
Based off of Game 1, things went well.
Grossmann logged 16:26 about two minutes less than his season average and four minutes less than his playoff average in Game 1 and was credited with two hits.
I felt pretty good, he said. Took a couple of shifts to get back in the game after a couple weeks I wanted to get into it right away, rather than test it out or feel it out. Jump in the fire right away and it felt good.
Grossmanns hits came early among the 26 shifts he logged.
Either get a hit or take a hit, Grossmann said of his first period. I wanted to make sure it didnt take me long. Been practicing pretty good for a week here and my legs felt all right. It was little things like timing. As the game went on, I felt better.
His on-ice partner, Braydon Coburn, logged 26:27 and had 29 shifts.
Hes paired with Cobie a lot, coach Peter Laviolette said. When you come out of the lineup a little bit and get back in there, I dont think we held him back any shifts.
I dont know how many shifts he took with Cobie. I thought he looked good out there. He did a nice job defensively.
Defensively, the entire Flyers blue line had a stronger game against the Devils than the opening couple of games at Pittsburgh.
Coburn-Grossman was the shutdown pair against Ilya Kovalchuk.
Some of those games, we let in four to five goals to Pittsburgh. That is not always a good compliment to the defense, Grossmann said. We stuck with it. Games like yesterday were tight.
We came off a little slow at the beginning, but as the game went on, we built off everything. That was the way we had to play to be successful. As game went on, every five minute period got better and better.
What the Flyers coaching staff wanted to see, going back to the Pittsburgh series, was the blue line building off a solid performance in Game 5 and carrying it into a dominant performance in Game 6 against the Penguins.
Had the Flyers not had that long six-day layoff, chances are, they would have had a better first period.
Yet its hard to say that the defense would have played any better than they did. Frankly, the defense was very strong during the entire 4-3 overtime win. Rookie Erik Gustafsson
Logged 16:49 and continues to impress with his decision making.
You always want to build on good things and take care of things you did bad, Grossmann said. That is how we approach it.
That was one game. We got a win and now we look forward to next game. That is kinda the mentality we have as a team. Take good things and carry and keep building.
New Jersey doesnt play the same kind of helter-skelter attack system the Penguins employ. Yet Grossmann said that didnt necessarily mean it was any easier defending against the Devils rush.
I wouldnt say they are easier, he said. They have a little different style of play. They play real solid defense and have a good goalie. They make it tougher to create scoring chances.
Off that, they go into attack. They have real good firepower up front and we got to respect that and come out and play every shift.
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