From 'immature' to established scorer, inside Travis Konecny's maturation

From 'immature' to established scorer, inside Travis Konecny's maturation

Travis Konecny came into training camp last September uptight and concerned about hitting the sophomore slump. It’s only coming out now because the Flyers’ season is over, and that sophomore slump, it never happened.

Instead, Konecny, 21, took an exponential leap. He established himself as a top-six scoring forward, spent considerable time on the top line with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux and vastly improved defensively from his rookie season.

Konecny didn’t lose the edge to his game, either. He continued to build a reputation as a pest and has even drawn comparisons to Brad Marchand. He just learned how to manage it. 

It was a Monday night late in his rookie year that served as the wake-up call, against the Blue Jackets, his first career two-goal game. At 7:20 of the third period, in a 3-3 game, he took a roughing penalty against Oliver Bjorkstrand that led to Columbus’ game-winning goal.

“Hero to zero just like that,” a hoarse Konecny recalled last week at Flyers Skate Zone.

And, in his second year, it was a game in Columbus that proved to be his turning point. On Dec. 23, after registering just 10 points in his first 35 games, Konecny found himself on the first line.

While Konecny didn’t score in the Flyers’ 2-1 shootout loss, it was the beginning. From that point forward, he broke through. Konecny, in his next 46 games, potted 20 goals, 37 points, saw his shooting percentage increase from 6.1 percent to 18, his plus/minus from minus-2 to plus-19 and his ice time rise a full three minutes. In 23 games from Dec. 28 to Feb. 18, he recorded 11 goals and 24 points, with five multi-point games and six game-winning goals.

“He’s a big part of the future of this organization,” Couturier said. “He’s got a lot of skill, a lot of speed. He can change the game himself. He’s one of those players that has that ability. I think as a young guy, he learned a lot this year. At the end of the year, he was more of a responsible player. He was taking better care of the puck and doing the right decisions.”

By the end of the season, though, Konecny found himself off the top unit. Not because of his play but rather that Dave Hakstol wanted to spread the wealth. Hakstol moved Konecny to the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds during the Flyers’ 5-4 loss to the Islanders on April 3, and Konecny remained away from Giroux and Couturier in the playoffs.

Konecny said his time on the first line gave him the confidence to try things he wouldn’t have before, and that remained when he was moved away from Couturier and Giroux.

“When he got some confidence, he started being a very dangerous player,” Giroux said. “He’s dynamic, beats guys 1-on-1, makes plays. He just matured. The immature player that had a little turnover or whatever it was, it was out of his game at the end of the year.”

Konecny, though, made it a point to say that while he’s learned to limit his mistakes, risks will always be a part of his game.

It’s just a matter of learning when and where is the right time.

“I have to make sure those high-risk plays,” Konecny said, pausing. “If you want to be a successful player or a high-end player, I do believe you have to make some of those plays.”

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

Craig Berube and the Blues are one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

They can earn that victory Tuesday night when they host the Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Including the playoffs, the Blues are 49-24-8 under Berube, who took over Nov. 19 as interim head coach.

For some context on the Blues' run, St. Louis visited the Wells Fargo Center Jan. 7 with the same number of points as the Flyers. The Blues were 29th in the NHL at 16-19-4 and 36 points, while the Flyers were 30th at 15-20-6 and 36 points.

St. Louis has never won a Cup, but it's on the verge of being one step closer to a title.

Below is the schedule for Day 39 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (STL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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