Travis Konecny

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

usa-patrick-konecny.jpg
USA Today Images

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

VOORHEES, N.J. — First, second, third or fourth.

Does it really matter with the lines?

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol doesn't care much for the numbered distinction between his forwards when he makes the lineup ahead of a game.

But what it can do is highlight a team's depth, good or bad.

For the Flyers right now, two exciting first-round picks no older than 20 are being featured on the third line, an example of how far the Flyers have come from recent years past.

So maybe the statuses don't matter, but they can be telling. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick making up the third unit with Dale Weise marks a positive development for the Flyers even before their home opener against the Capitals has arrived Saturday night (see Flyers-Capitals thoughts).

"I don't label them," Hakstol said after the morning skate. "You guys always label them. I guess I look at the role and how guys are playing on any given night and what they contribute to our hockey team. Everybody's got to go out and do their job on any one given night.

"Nolan and T.K. have been together with Weiser now for a short period of time. They've shown good chemistry, they've created good opportunities offensively, and they've been able to limit chances against. That's been a good line. I don't number them. I just look at whether they're a good line or not."

Two seasons ago, Konecny and Patrick were each eclipsing 100 points at the junior level. That's some serious talent being sprinkled deeper into the Flyers' forwards group.

Similar to Hakstol, Konecny doesn't care about the labels. He said the same opportunities come no matter where you play.

"Our team is pretty deep this year," Konecny said. "I wouldn't consider any line any … like even our so-called fourth has been our best line. I really don't look at it any different than I did last year, I played top six last year. I'm playing with two forwards who could be top six, too, so it's good hockey. We're having fun.

"I wouldn't even call it a lower role. We have Patty and Weiser on the center and the wing on my line. It's a guy with great vision and Weiser has probably one of the heaviest shots on our team. If we can get on the puck a little bit more, I think that's going to create a little bit more for us."

Konecny and Patrick on a third line can also create favorable matchups against teams not as balanced, making for more chances, resulting in more confidence.

"It's awesome, it's good, we get a lot of opportunities, he creates a lot of offense," Konecny said of playing with Patrick. "He's good at getting the puck out, too, which helps with transitioning from defense to offense, so it's been good so far."

Just don't label them.

Holy 'Ovie'
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is doing, well, what he does best — score goals.

At 32 years old but in superb shape, he looks as lethal as ever.

"Everybody knows he's one of the most dynamic scorers in the game," Hakstol said. "He's going at a hell of a pace right now, so we've got to do the best that we can. There are some things we can talk about to try to limit and we're going to do that."

All orange
The Flyers will be giving out T-shirts for the home opener.

The atmosphere should be electric. How the Flyers' rookies handle the early energy rush will be important.

"They know what's in store, but again, they have to go through the experience of it," Hakstol said. "They've got good older guys, older veterans around them that will help them with that. If there are some jitters and adrenaline the first couple shifts, that's to be expected. I'm confident those guys will settle in and play the way they play."

Missing Holtby
The Capitals are splitting up their goaltending duties this weekend. Braden Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner, played Friday night, so the Flyers will see backup Philipp Grubauer tonight.

That may not be a huge break.

The 25-year-old Grubauer is 2-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in four career games against the Flyers.

Lineup stuff
According to a report by Flyers.NHL.com contributor Bill Meltzer, rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim will be a healthy scratch tonight as Brandon Manning inserts the lineup.

Morning skate was optional so it is uncertain how the Flyers' lineup shakes out. Sanheim took part and was one of the final players off the ice, which is notable considering extra work is usually taken by the healthy scratches.

Based on the morning goalie work, Brian Elliott will start in net.

With all that said, here's our best-educated projection for tonight's lineup:

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg                   
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas        

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Flyers Weekly Observations: The Wayne Train hasn't skipped a beat

Flyers Weekly Observations: The Wayne Train hasn't skipped a beat

Flyers hockey is finally back in our lives.

Feels pretty darn good to say that, right? It’s been too long.

You guys know what else is back?

Flyers Weekly Observations! Woo-hoo!

I know, it’s so hard to contain your excitement. I understand.

Anyway, the Flyers started things off with a bang with a hard-fought 5-3 win on opening night Wednesday in San Jose vs. the Sharks, endured a tough 2-0 loss Thursday evening vs. the Kings in Los Angeles and finished up the California portion of the trip with a strong 3-2 OT victory over the Ducks in Anaheim Saturday night.

Still sleepy from staying up for all those West Coast games?

That’s OK because there’s plenty to discuss after a busy first week of the season. Let’s hop right into it, shall we?

• Through all the change the Flyers have gone through both externally with player movement and internally with line changes, prospects filtering themselves into more prominent roles and veterans still in orange and black losing a step in the eyes of some, one constant has remained a driving force — Wayne Simmonds. He picked up right where he left off with his hat trick Wednesday at the Shark Tank. He was right there in his office in front of the net, deflecting two pucks from the point past Sharks goalie Martin Jones. His second tally on the evening was as stealthy as it gets as he tipped a chest-high shot right by Jones. But here’s the thing you have to like about his empty-netter to seal the victory — sure, it was an empty-netter, but Simmonds is trusted enough to be out there on the 4-on-4 as the Flyers desperately nursed a one-goal lead. He also played 3:30 of shorthanded time in that game. Yes, he’s a goal-scorer, but he’s the Flyers’ Mr. Do-It-All. He’s their steady rock. And that OT winner in Anaheim was just an another example of the complete player he is who possesses a heck of a wrister.  

• Let’s get into the kids now. Specifically, the ones who patrol the blue line. I questioned the decision to bring Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin to California only for both to be healthy scratches in the opener vs. San Jose. Sanheim eventually got in Thursday in L.A. (more on that in a bit) and stayed in for the OT triumph in Anaheim. But Morin has yet to suit up this season and play. What’s the point of having him there if he’s not going to play? These are important times in the development of a 22-year-old defenseman who already has to live with the pressures that come with being a high first-round pick. If he’s not playing with the big club, he should be getting reps in Lehigh Valley. The guy needs to be playing somewhere, not sitting somewhere.

• So, now, back to Sanheim, who made his debut at STAPLES Center on Thursday evening. The nerves were obviously there for the 21-year-old, especially early on as he tried to get his legs underneath him. And that’s to be expected. Try and put yourself in his shoes, or, in this case, his skates. You would feel the same way. The nerves should be there. But the game was a tougher one for Sanheim, as he tried to get adjusted to regular-season NHL speed and precision all night and wound up taking a bad four-minute high-sticking call in the third. He was critical of himself and his play afterward, saying he needed to be better. And you have to like that out of a kid, especially after his first game. He wasn’t happy just being there. He rebounded with a solid outing Saturday night in Anaheim. He can keep building and keep getting more and more comfortable in the NHL. He’s got the right attitude.

• Speaking of the kids, how about keeping Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny on the same line for a long, long time?

• One area that had my particular interest coming into this week was the goaltending. Both how each goaltender played and how head coach Dave Hakstol would rotate them because you just knew he would split the starts one way or another. I will say that I’m still not sold on the Brian Elliott-Michal Neuvirth tandem, but each was very solid in net this week in their respective starts. Elliott hung in there in a tough environment in San Jose and earned the victory with 32 stops. Perhaps his best one came in the first period when Kevin LeBanc found himself all alone with a loose puck in front of the net and Elliott stuck out the arm to make an impressive stop. Neuvirth was very good the next night in Los Angeles as he took a hard-luck loss with 25 saves. That incredible sprawling stop he made on Anze Kopitar, though? My groin hurts more and more every time I watch it. Elliott retook the reins Saturday in Anaheim and excelled with 21 saves in the OT triumph. So, while Neuvirth played well in Hollywood, Elliott is still the one with two victories. Knowing how Hakstol tends to ride the hot hand in net, don’t be surprised to see Elliott see the fair share of starts coming up. Speaking of goaltending, how good was Jonathan Quick on Thursday? When healthy, he’s got a legit claim to being the best goalie in the NHL.

• Have to like what we’ve seen from the Flyers’ newfangled top line of Claude Giroux on left wing, Sean Couturier at center and Jake Voracek on the right wing. The triumvirate opened the scoring on the season with Giroux’s first-period tally in San Jose and has combined for two goals, seven assists, nine points and 21 shots on goal on the young season. Keep that kind of offensive pressure up and the goal numbers will come. And remember, those three could still benefit from more time to jell together.

• Mr. NHL Schedule Maker did the Flyers no favors to start the season. The California hell trip is hard enough, but then two of those games were the opponent’s home opener. The cherry on top: a trip to Nashville for the Predators’ opener and Western Conference championship banner ceremony.  But, hey, coming out of Cali with four points ain’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.

Coming up this week: Tuesday at Nashville (8 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia), Saturday’s home opener vs. Washington (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia)

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Not even the finest sous chef in the United States can serve up duck on a silver platter like this.

No Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler — Anaheim’s top two centers with a two-way game capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best offensive players.

No Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen — two of Anaheim’s top four defensemen capable of generating offense from the back end.

No Nick Ritchie, who was a late scratch, forcing head coach Randy Carlyle to promote a fourth-line player into the top six.

Add all of those key pieces to the Ducks’ lineup and you can see why these birds have been an Alfred Hitchcock-like nightmare to the Flyers — a frustration level unlike any other over the past seven years.

The frustration ended Saturday night.

Wayne Simmonds played hero again, potting the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime to give the Flyers a 3-2 win over the injury-ridden Ducks at the Honda Center, their first win in Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011 (see observations).

"This is a tough building to get points in," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "And they had some key guys out. You know the guys who are in the lineup are going to be absolutely at their top level. You see that a lot within the game. You have a couple of key guys out and everybody else picks it up a notch or two.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled our readiness and our determination. It's a real good two points for us on the road."

Coming into Saturday, the Ducks had beaten the Flyers in eight straight in what has been a lopsided series, and had an 11-0-1 record against the Flyers since October 2010.

Simmonds' OT winner was his fourth goal of the season and his second game-winner in just three games. He recorded a hat trick in the season opener Wednesday in San Jose.

After the game, Simmonds acknowledged the importance of jumping on a team with such significant health issues.

"I think it's important," Simmonds said. "We're a young team so at this point of the season, we got to make sure we're worried about ourselves, make sure we're continuing to do the right things.

"I think we did that tonight, whether they were down a couple guys tonight or not. We just want to make sure we're playing hockey the right way and I think we did that tonight."

While it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, the Flyers dominated the Ducks throughout long stretches of the game. Take the second period, for example. Through nearly the first 14 minutes, the Flyers actually had more goals (1) than the Ducks had shots (0).

And if the Anaheim Duck was the main course, Ivan Provorov was the Flyers' maitre d’ of defense. The Flyers' shutdown defender not only scored his first goal of the season but completely stifled the Ducks' top line of Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry as the trio combined for just three shots and was held off the scoresheet.

For 25 minutes, Provorov's defensive play was surgical in its precision, as he continuously separated player from the puck and negated Anaheim from cycling the puck down low.

"He's kind of a machine out there," said goalie Brian Elliott, who earned his second win of the season. "I heard when I came in here what type of guy he was. He played a great game tonight. It doesn't really get noticed all the time, but that's probably the best thing when a defenseman doesn't get noticed."

“For sure that team missed those guys, but it doesn’t matter, this league is so competitive,” Provorov said. “Everybody plays hard, so our main focus was focusing on our game, play the right way and that’s what we did tonight.”

There will be defining moments throughout the course of an 82-game season when the Flyers will win games they should have otherwise lost, and games like this one, where they may have felt deflated coming away with one point when they fully deserved two. 

Saturday night, to their credit, they took full advantage of a wounded bird.

A 1st for Patrick
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick collected his first NHL point Saturday night, assisting on Provorov's first-period goal. Patrick and Provorov were previously teammates in the WHL with Brandon.

However, Patrick appeared to have found a running mate, as he was paired with second-year player Travis Konecny. The duo had instant chemistry that was refreshing to see after Hakstol switched Patrick and Valtteri Filppula in the lineup.

"I love playing with guys like that," Patrick said of Konecny. "He competes hard and he's fast and makes plays down low. I really like his game. Obviously, I like (Dale) Weise's game, too. He plays heavy and sees the ice well and it was obviously a good first game with both of those guys."

Giroux passes Recchi
With a secondary assist on Sean Couturier’s goal, Claude Giroux passed Mark Recchi into fourth-place in franchise history with his 396th assist. Moving forward, Giroux has only franchise Hall of Famers to pass up. The captain is now 68 assists shy from overtaking Bill Barber for third place on the all-time list.