Philadelphia Flyers

Thank you, Dave Hakstol, for finally playing Konecny in OT

Thank you, Dave Hakstol, for finally playing Konecny in OT


DETROIT — Travis Konecny’s second consecutive overtime goal, 27 seconds into the extra period, gave the Flyers a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

It was the Flyers' eighth win in their last nine games. Jakub Voracek had a goal and an assist while Sean Couturier had two assists.

Konecny also scored 27 seconds into overtime Sunday for a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Tuesday, Konecny got the puck away from Detroit’s Dylan Larkin at the Detroit blue line, went in and beat goalie Petr Mrazek on the short side from the right circle. The play was reviewed for offsides, but it was ruled that when the puck came out of the zone along the boards, Konecny got his skate on the blue line before he touched the puck when it came back in.

The fourth straight win gives the Flyers (24-16-8) 56 points, matching the New Jersey Devils for second place in the jam-packed Metropolitan Division.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings (19-20-8) have lost five of their last seven games.

Now, let's get into some observations:

• Andrew MacDonald made a big defensive play seconds after Frans Nielsen had tied the game, 2-2, with 9:16 left in regulation. Tyler Bertuzzi was looking at a wide-open net from the bottom of the left circle, but MacDonald got his stick on the shot and deflected it over the cage.

• The Flyers' big guns were held at bay by the Red Wings until late in the second period when Larkin took a tripping penalty with 49 seconds left and the scored tied at 1-1. It only took the Flyers 26 seconds to convert as Voracek gathered in a rebound in the right circle, moved across the slot and put a shot past a sprawling Mrazek for a 2-1 lead on his ninth goal. The rebound was off a shot by Couturier — who also assisted on Konecny’s winner — and Claude Giroux got the secondary assist.

• The Flyers could have led by more after two periods. Brandon Manning hit the goal post on a shot from the right point 6:15 into the middle period and the Flyers dominated the period, outshooting Detroit, 18-7.

• A big save by Brian Elliott came early in the second period (1:23), just 13 seconds after MacDonald had scored to tie the contest at 1-1. Elliott made a spectacular glove save on Henrik Zetterberg’s one-time backhand shot from point-blank range. Elliott also stopped Bertuzzi point blank with about a minute to go in the second period and foiled Larkin on a breakaway 8:48 into the third period. He finished with 19 saves to pick up his 19th win.

• Nothing much happened in the first 10 minutes. The game’s first shot didn’t come until the 5:01 mark of the first period when Shayne Gostisbehere managed to get off a harmless shot from the left point that Mrazek easily caught and held the puck for a faceoff. The only decent scoring chances in the first half of the first were by the Red Wings. Radko Gudas made an outstanding defensive play to knock the puck off of the stick of Bertuzzi as he was about to get off a shot from the bottom of the right circle, and Larkin shot the puck through the crease behind Elliott from the side of the net.

• The Flyers got a bad break when Detroit took a 1-0 lead with 9:18 remaining in the opening period. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson’s shot from the left point deflected off of Manning’s leg in front of Elliott and into the net.

• Mrazek knocked away Michael Raffl's shot on a short breakaway in the final 10 seconds of the first period. Other than that, neither team got much of a look at the opponent’s net as the Flyers outshot the Red Wings, 5-4, in the opening period. Raffl later exited the game with a lower-body injury and did not return. He will be reevaluated Wednesday.

• The Flyers come back home to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7 p.m./NBCSP), their final game before the All-Star break this weekend.

Ex-Flyer Nick Cousins takes down Islanders

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Ex-Flyer Nick Cousins takes down Islanders

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet praised center Nick Cousins after, not just for his game-winning goal against the New York Islanders but also for his improved overall play.

Cousins scored his second goal of the game 2:21 into overtime to lift the Coyotes to a 3-2 win over the Islanders on Monday night.

"I've got to give him a lot of credit," Tocchet said. "He's done really well. I've sat him out this year. He's worked on his game. He's always got a smile on his face coming to work to practice. He's worked on his game and he's starting to reap the benefits."

Cousins added an assist and the Coyotes ran their points streak to five games, a season high. Arizona has points from seven of eight games, with six of those going to overtime. Brendan Perlini scored for the third time in three games and Antti Raanta stopped 32 shots (see full recap).

Wings blank Devils before welcoming Flyers
NEWARK, N.J. -- Petr Mrazek wants more playing time and Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is probably going to give it to him.

Mrazek had 37 saves in posting his second straight shutout and third of the season as the Red Wings played one of their best games of the season in beating the slumping New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Monday night.

Mrazek has stopped 64 shots in shutting out the Blackhawks and Devils in his last two starts. He now has three shutouts in 14 games with a 5-5-1 record.

"I'm trying to get some confidence every game I play, every save I make," Mrazek said. "I haven't played a lot of minutes, so every game I am trying,” (see full recap).

Avalanche beat Leafs for 10th straight win
TORONTO -- Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier heard the Bronx cheers from the Air Canada Centre crowd on Monday night.

He remembers listening to Toronto fans giving him the same sort of hard time when he was a member of the Maple Leafs as they struggled through the 2015-16 season.

"It's not as bad when you are the away team," he said.

Bernier made 29 saves in his first start at the ACC since Toronto traded him in July 2016, Blake Comeau scored the go-ahead goal with 7:43 left and the Avalanche extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy leads Lightning past Blackhawks
CHICAGO -- Andrei Vasilevskiy was terrific, Chris Kunitz made a clutch play and Tampa Bay's penalty killers had a big night.

The Lightning followed a familiar formula back to the top of the NHL.

Vasilevskiy made 40 saves in his league-best seventh shutout and Kunitz scored a short-handed goal in the second period, leading Tampa Bay to a 2-0 victory over the sliding Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.

Yanni Gourde also scored as Tampa Bay stopped a season-high three-game skid and leapfrogged idle Vegas for the best record in the NHL. The Lightning, who lost to Chicago in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, improved to 11-0-2 against the Blackhawks in their last 13 regular-season meetings (see full recap).

Flyers have a Travis Sanheim dilemma

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Flyers have a Travis Sanheim dilemma

Defenseman and prized prospect Travis Sanheim will start playing some big minutes again.

It just won’t be with the Flyers right now.

On Monday, Sanheim was reassigned to AHL Lehigh Valley as the front office also recalled Mark Alt to take Sanheim’s spot on the active roster.


Trust and development.

With the Flyers playing some of their best hockey of the season with wins in eight of their last nine games and the increased importance of gaining necessary points in an air-tight division (as of Monday morning, the Flyers held the East's first wild-card spot with 54 points, one behind Columbus for third in the Metro, two behind New Jersey for second and just seven behind first-place Washington), Sanheim had been relegated as the seventh defenseman and had served as a healthy scratch in eight of those nine games.

“He comes out of the lineup and the team plays well,” general manager Ron Hextall said recently of the 21-year-old blueliner. “Like most teams when things are going well, you really don’t want to change too much. If you look at the whole year with Travis, I think he’s played well with us. He’s had his moments, but he’s a young player and that’s going to happen. I don’t like him sitting and coaches don’t like him sitting, and I’m sure he doesn’t like sitting.”

Prior to the Devils/Capitals weekend series the Flyers swept, head coach Dave Hakstol was asked about the possibility of utilizing an 11 forward-seven defensemen combination as Tyrell Goulbourne has been used sparingly since his call-up. But Hakstol made it clear he wasn’t going to make concessions to accommodate one player.

“We’re not going to do anything to get anybody in the lineup at this point in time,” Hakstol said. “It can’t solely be about that. If that’s a scenario that’s best for our team, then we’ll consider it. What’s the right combination for our team to win a game that day?”

Coming out of the Christmas break, Hakstol started shortening the length of Sanheim’s leash. The rookie played 14:42 of the Panthers game (a 3-2 loss) on Dec. 28. Brandon Manning was fully healed and ready to return from a hand injury the next night in Tampa, a 5-3 decision the Flyers took from the league-best Lightning.

After missing the next five games, Sanheim received another chance with the Flyers playing their first game against the Devils out of the bye week on Jan. 13. All it took was one play in which Sanheim stepped up to check his man along the boards. He subsequently lost his stick, and by the time he grabbed it, the Devils converted an easy goal to take a 1-0 lead.

That came during Sanheim’s second shift as he finished the game playing a season-low 6:02, including just one 18-second shift in the third period.

“They’ve got to earn the trust of their teammates and the coaches, and sometimes that’s a process,” Hextall said. “Some of what Travis is going through is good for Travis. There’s a lot you learn out there. Part of it is the life lesson of you have to earn things. Things aren’t going to be handed to you. Just because you’re a first-round pick or a highly paid guy, you have to learn things. You don’t come out of college and become a CEO. You have to pay your dues, and you have to earn what you’re going to get.”

Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere learned those life lessons the hard way last season as both young players were pulled out of the lineup after their performance lagged. Hextall believes Sanheim will eventually bounce back and reflect at his rookie season as a valuable learning experience.

“Sometimes the only way they learn is by missing a shift or having their ice cut back a bit or getting sat out at some point,” Hextall said. “Most players have gotten sat out in their career. If you ask most guys, not at the time, they say it was a good lesson. There are a lot of things our young guys are learning right now, not only at this level, but at Lehigh.”

Gostisbehere and Konecny are playing arguably some of the best hockey of their careers right now.

Even if Sanheim has more upside and potential than Manning, the veteran has proven to be more reliable defensively and has even been more opportunistic in the offensive end. In a twist of fate, Sanheim's offensive upside is a big reason why Hextall selected him with a first-round pick in 2014. Sanheim has one goal and four assists in 35 games played this season.

“You've got to get stronger. You make a mistake and if you can’t rebound from it, you're probably not going to be at this level for very long,” Hextall said. “There’s learning curves all along the way. You can’t look at everything in a vacuum. There’s a small picture and there’s a big picture.”

Hextall is right. At this critical point of the NHL season, the bigger picture of winning outweighs the smaller picture of player development.