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: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.