VOORHEES, N.J. – For the first time in his six-year NHL career, Luke Schenn has April plans.
When the Flyers open their divisional semifinal series against the New York Rangers Thursday, it will be the first time Schenn suits up for a playoff game.
It’s been a long wait.
“A couple guys have been bugging me, actually, that it is my first time and it’s my sixth year,” Schenn said. “It’s nice to finally get that lifted off your shoulders a little bit, and get the chance to play on a team that gets to compete for a Cup.”
Schenn, 24, spent five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before coming to Philadelphia ahead of the 2013 season. Though the Leafs made it to the playoffs last year, they hadn’t since 2004 – and Schenn joined the team in 2008.
He’s still a day away from taking the ice at Madison Square Garden, but Schenn is amped up for the postseason. The atmosphere around the team is already different, and he can sense it.
“It’s a lot more exciting,” he said. “Fighting down the stretch for the playoffs, and gearing up for a playoff spot, I’ve never gone through it before. It’s a lot different feeling than being disappointed at the end of the regular season and planning out your summer or maybe looking to go to the World Championships or something like that.
“This is something you dream of as a kid, getting a chance to play in these playoffs and a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s special for sure. Better late than never.”
Of course, along with the excitement comes pressure. There’s much more at stake now than there was just a handful of days ago. Any little mistake made in the playoffs carries that much more weight, and Schenn knows it.
He admitted to seeking advice from Flyers veterans like Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit over dinner a few days ago. Both players, though veterans, remember what it was like to experience the postseason for the first time.
“A lot of feelings, a lot of emotions go through your body and your mind,” Streit said. “I think just play good defense – do the basics. Especially as a defenseman, use the energy in the building in a positive way and keep your calm. He’s a young guy, but he’s been a veteran in the league.
“And it’s still hockey, you know? It might be a little bit louder, it might be a little bit quicker, but at the end of the day, you play on the best level. He’s done really well. He’s a big guy, and he makes smart plays. I’m not worried. He’ll be OK.”
In the Flyers’ four games against the Rangers this year, Schenn has one goal, a minus-1 rating and averages 15:55 in ice time. His responsibilities in the series shouldn’t change much, even if everything he's tasked with suddenly carries more weight. The Flyers will need him to play as he has the second half of the regular season, since being paired with Andrew MacDonald.
Schenn's first postseason will certainly be a learning experience, but he isn't concerned -- he's just ready to get started.
“It’s a pressure situation,” he said. “You don’t really worry about it, you focus on the things you can do to help your team win. It’s not like I’ve never played in the playoffs before – there’s junior, it’s different, but playing in the world juniors, stuff like that, I have definitely played in big games before. It’s still different at the NHL level, but obviously I expect it to be a higher tempo.
“I’m sure it will be real exciting, and I can hardly wait.”