Flyers

Travis Konecny not taking secured spot on Flyers for granted

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Travis Konecny not taking secured spot on Flyers for granted

VOORHEES, N.J. — Before Travis Konecny can realize his full potential on the ice, the 20-year-old Flyers winger must improve his mindset.

Konecny’s first NHL season was nothing to be ashamed of, but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, either. The former first-round draft pick finished among the top-20 rookie forwards with 11 goals (18th), 17 assists (tied for 15th) and 28 points (tied for 15th) in 2016-17.

Yet, when you’re used to scoring and creating offense almost at will, as Konecny became accustomed in the OHL, that level of production can feel like a disappointment.

“I was down on myself a lot last year,” Konecny said Friday. “When you come from junior as a captain, a player who is used to scoring, getting points and playmaker kind of things like that, it’s tough when you come into a humbling league like this.”

Konecny was a point-per-game player from the moment he set foot on an OHL rink. By his third season, he was almost a two-point-per-game player, finishing with 30 goals and 71 assists in 60 games with the Ottawa 57’s and Sarnia Sting.

The NHL simply doesn’t work that way. There were only eight point-per-game players in the entire league last season, and not a single one of them was a rookie.

“It’s so much different," Konecny said, "because every time you get on the ice, you’re thinking you’re going to create something. You’re going to have a good chance.

“When you’re playing these types of games, you just have to wait, and not necessarily sit back, but wait for the other team to make that one mistake that you can capitalize on or be one step ahead of them.”

Needless to say, the jump to the NHL was an eye-opening experience for Konecny.

“I’ve learned it’s not easy to score, it’s not easy to produce and create something every single shift," he said, "so I think I’m going to have more of a positive look on this year.”

Though far from a breakout season, Konecny’s rookie campaign did little to diminish his potential.

Selected 24th overall in the 2015 draft, Konecny remains very much a part of the Flyers’ future. When training camp opened last week, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound wing joined captain Claude Giroux and prospect Oskar Lindblom on Group 1’s top line.

Clearly, the Flyers are hopeful Konecny can continue progress in the year ahead. In order to take the next step, however, he must maintain a high level of confidence throughout the process.

“There are other good players in the league, too,” Konecny said, “so when I get beat, I have to be able to bounce back and realize it’s not always my fault. There are good players, and you’re going to have those mistakes.

“That’s the way I’m going to approach this year. I’ve learned as a pro to just stick in the game more, wait for my opportunities and be positive.”

That begins by setting attainable goals. If Konecny goes into this season with All-Star numbers in mind, he’s probably going to wind up disappointed again.

Konecny seems to have a more reasonable outlook, so far. Last season, he played both left and right wing, bounced between lines and was even a healthy scratch on occasion. This season, he’d like to solidify his role with the club, for starters.

“I'm going to work hard, and when my opportunities present themselves, I have to take advantage,” Konecny said. “There's no excuses this year. I have to bear down a little bit more.

“I think my goal is just wherever I play in the lineup, I want to stick there, and I want to play my position right and try to be more consistent.”

Konecny sounds eager to turn over a new leaf, but then, every player should be excited about the prospect of a new season. Today, he has a clean slate — but how will Konecny react once he’s mired in an inevitable slump as the schedule grinds on?

To his credit, Konecny isn’t taking anything for granted. While his spot on the Flyers' roster is all but assured, he arrived at camp with the mindset that he’s competing for a job.

“I still have to prove myself as a player,” Konecny said. “I’ve only had one year under my belt, and I still have to prove my spot on the team, prove what I can do the coaching staff and my teammates.

“My rope doesn’t get any longer. It’s still a pretty short rope, which is fine because it holds me accountable for each and every play when I step on the ice.”

Of course, the best thing Konecny can do to maintain a positive outlook and feel comfortable in his role with the Flyers is play quality hockey. That’s the funny thing about confidence — it often tends to be in direct proportion with performance.

Best of NHL: Canadiens top Devils in overtime to snap 3-game slide

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Best of NHL: Canadiens top Devils in overtime to snap 3-game slide

MONTREAL -- Tomas Plekanec scored 1:52 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Thursday night to snap a three-game slide.

Andrew Shaw scored for the Canadiens (14-14-4) in the first period and Carey Price made 31 saves in his ninth straight start.

Stefan Noesen had the goal for the Devils (17-9-5), who remained third in the rugged Metropolitan Division. Cory Schneider stopped 34 shots in defeat.

Plekanec beat Schneider between the legs after tremendous work along the boards by Charles Hudon to get him the puck in open ice.

The Canadiens ended their 2-2-1 homestand on a positive note before they embark on a seven-game road trip, starting with Saturday's outdoor game against the Ottawa Senators to mark the NHL's 100th anniversary (see full recap).

Wild’s Stalock posts 1st shutout in 3 seasons
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Alex Stalock stopped 28 shots to complete his first NHL shutout in three seasons, steering the Minnesota Wild past the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

Tyler Ennis scored early and Mikael Granlund added a late goal for the Wild, whose first three wins on the streak were all in extra time. They handed the Maple Leafs their first blank slate in more than a year, since a 3-0 loss at Calgary on Nov. 30, 2016.

The Maple Leafs, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and entered the game with the fifth-highest scoring average in the league, have totaled three goals over their last three games without young star center Auston Matthews because of an upper-body injury.

Stalock stepped up at an opportune time for the Wild, who had to pull starter Devan Dubnyk from the previous game after one period because of an unspecified lower-body injury. Dubnyk will miss at least another week, leaving the net in the hands of the career backup Stalock who played at South St. Paul High School just 5 miles from Xcel Energy Center. All four of his previous NHL shutouts came with San Jose.

Since losing 4-2 to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 8, the Wild are 12-4-1 in their last 17 games for an NHL-leading 25 points over that span. This was their fifth straight win at home (see full recap).

Chiasson catches fire late in Capitals’ win
BOSTON -- Alex Chiasson scored two third-period goals, the second on a short-handed breakaway with 8:29 left, and the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on Thursday night.

Patrice Bergeron scored twice for Boston, moving past Bobby Orr on the team's all-time list with his 265th career goal and adding another in the final seconds.

Braden Holtby stopped 33 shots for the Capitals, who have beaten Boston 11 straight times. Jakub Vrana and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for Washington, and Alex Ovechkin added an empty netter to make it 5-2 before Bergeron cut the deficit to two with 27 seconds left.

The Bruins trailed 3-1 but they had just begun a power play when Chiasson pushed the puck out of his zone and outraced three Boston players to center ice. Alone as he crossed the red line, he skated in on Anton Khudobin, went to his backhand and beat the goalie on the stick side.

Khudobin made 16 saves for the Bruins. David Krejci made it 4-2 in the final minutes when he tipped Charlie McAvoy's slapshot into the net (see full recap).

Flyers-Sabres observations: Second line continues surge

Flyers-Sabres observations: Second line continues surge

BOX SCORE

The roller-coaster ride that is the Flyers’ season saw the team extend its winning streak to five games after defeating the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim scored the Flyers’ first goal and his first NHL goal after taking a pass from Dale Weise and firing a perfectly-placed shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner. 

After scoring three goals in the preseason, Sanheim finally scored No. 1 in his 28th regular-season game.

Valtteri Filppula scored the game-winner with 2:33 remaining in the second period.

Brian Elliott stopped 19 of 20 shots and has earned the win in every game during the current streak.

Michael Raffl played in his 300th career game.

• The Sabres scored the first goal 1:29 into the game when Elliott attempted to rim the puck around the boards from behind the net, but Zemgus Girgensons blocked it with his body that left Elliott in no-man’s-land. For whatever reason, Elliott elected to stay behind the net instead of retreating back to his crease, which left Ryan O’Reilly in front with a slam dunk empty-net goal.

• Roughly a minute later, Elliott was caught behind the net where he nearly did the same thing as he threw the puck straight into a Sabres player. This time, rookie Nolan Patrick was on the back side to protect the post, stop Sam Reinhart and save the goal.

• The Flyers scored first as the Patrick line had a good cycle game. Eventually, Weise fed a pinching Sanheim, who moved in from his left defense position. Instead of winding up for a big slap shot, Sanheim wisely directed the puck, which allowed him to pick his spot on the net. For Sanheim, it was his first NHL goal after he displayed what he could do offensively during the preseason.

“It feels great,” Sanheim said at the first intermission. “Obviously, it was a big goal in the game. I’m just excited to finally get the first one. Weiser was coming behind the net, and I saw my winger kind of cheat to the wall and I had a seam down the middle. He made a great pass, and I was pretty excited that it went into the back of the net.”

• There was a lazy penalty by Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo as he tripped Filppula behind the Flyers’ goal line. The Flyers’ second unit actually performed better than the first unit and had better success with its setup, including a quality chance down low as a result of quick puck movement.  

• Sanheim may have scored his first goal, but defensively his struggles continued throughout the night. He turned the puck over and then lost track of his man as Reinhart fed Evander Kane for a one-timer in the area where Sanheim was supposed to be stationed.

• Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere appeared to be in quite some pain as he left the ice with 1:57 remaining in the first period holding his left arm.

• Early in the second period, the Flyers’ No. 1 PP unit looked much better with a pair of prime opportunities. “Ghost” ripped off a slapper that sat on the crease for a split second. Wayne Simmonds was in front and tried to bang it home with no luck.

• It was a rough shift for Ivan Provorov as he was whacked in the face by his teammate’s stick. Seconds later, Provorov snapped his stick on an attempted slap shot and was caught up in the Sabres’ 2-on-1 the other way with Kane getting off a weak attempt that Elliott turned away with his right pad.

• As much as I like Jakub Voracek’s power-skating game with the puck, he’s definitely turnover-prone. He had a couple of turnovers in the first period and another at the 9:00 mark. On that same shift, Voracek broke in all alone on Lehner for perhaps then Flyers’ best chance of the second period. With Voracek, you have to take the bad with the good. 

• I’ve really liked the play of the Patrick line with Jordan Weal and Weise. Together they were buzzing in the offensive zone for most of the first two periods. They were in on Sanheim’s first goal and Weal had that extra gear in this game and looked determined to score. 

• The Flyers grabbed a 2-1 lead when the trio of Raffl, Filppula and Voracek all got involved. It initially started with Raffl’s strong forecheck when he eventually grabbed the puck as it came off the wall. Raffl then fed Voracek, who was stationed at the goal line, and finally to Filppula, who wristed a shot top left corner — a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe play.

“It was definitely an important goal,” Filppula said at the second intermission. “There’s not a lot of room out there. It’s a close game both ways, so it was good to get ahead before the third.” 

• After he was leveled to the ice in the Sabres’ zone, Travis Konecny took out his frustrations on Okposo and drove him hard to the ice.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).