Travis Konecny wows, Flyers kick off Alain Vigneault era with win over Blackhawks in NHL Global Series

Travis Konecny wows, Flyers kick off Alain Vigneault era with win over Blackhawks in NHL Global Series


The curtain opened on the Alain Vigneault era Friday in Prague, Czech Republic.

And the first show was a good one. 

The Flyers beat the Blackhawks, 4-3, in the NHL Global Series at O2 Arena. In Vigneault's Flyers head coaching debut, his team received goals from Travis Konecny (two), Oskar Lindblom and Michael Raffl.

Impressively, the Flyers have won their last four season openers by a combined score of 18-10. Of course, though, fans will keep things in perspective given the team has missed the playoffs in two of those three seasons.

But 2019-20 at least has a different look with Vigneault and assistant coaches Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, along with general manager Chuck Fletcher, who brought in Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun.

Time will tell just how the different the final result will be for the Flyers (see story).

• Let's start with Carter Hart.

How refreshing is it to go into a season knowing that the goalie in net is truly the future?

The 21-year-old wasn't at his best Friday and had some trouble protecting the Flyers' lead, but he made enough timely stops.

In two career starts against the Blackhawks, Hart has two wins and 68 saves on 72 shots. Pretty good.

• Konecny hasn't always been the fastest starter. In 2018-19, he had two goals through 15 games. In 2017-18, he had two goals through 23 games.

In the 2019-20 opener, with the ink still wet on his new contract, Konecny needed just two periods to score his first two goals. The second marker was filthy and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

So, missing those first three days of training camp was no big deal, huh?

The loud start is an encouraging sign for the 22-year-old who should have 30 goals on his mind. He was on the second line Friday with Sean Couturier and Lindblom. The group was dynamic.

• Speaking of Lindblom, he was all smiles after this goal. The 23-year-old became the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead in the middle frame.

Going back to last season, Lindblom has five goals in his last six games. If he scores 20-plus goals in his second full season, the Flyers will win a lot more games.

• Hayes and Niskanen had nice debuts.

Hayes, a 27-year-old center, used his big body and is a real presence out there at 6-foot-5. Niskanen, a 32-year-old defenseman with a Stanley Cup, was a plus-1 in 20-plus minutes. He broke up a dangerous 2-on-1 led by Patrick Kane as the Flyers were nursing a one-goal lead. Like Hayes, Niskanen also plays on both special teams units. Strong, versatile additions.

• The power play isn't exactly Ivan Provorov's strength. Working on the second unit during the second period, Provorov lost the puck in his own zone trying to ignite an entry. It's not that Provorov isn't a skilled puck mover, but Travis Sanheim might be a better option on the power play. There's so much to like about him getting up the ice and working the point.

Last season, Provorov played 127:24 on the man advantage and had two assists. Sanheim, on the other hand, played 84:21 power play minutes and had two goals and three assists.

• Even without Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder), the Flyers look deeper at forward. Raffl scored an important goal in the third period to provide a 4-2 cushion.

Raffl will give consistent effort on the Flyers' fourth line. If he's scoring goals, it's a major bonus.

Something to consider:

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Kevin Hayes

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Kevin Hayes. 


Man oh man am I thrilled to be giving Hayes the grade he’s getting today. This time last year, Flyers fans were beyond the point of disappointment at the signing of the center — it’s safe to say things have taken a turn for the best. The Hayes signing was instantly justified before the 2019-20 season was even in full swing because of the news about Nolan Patrick and his migraine disorder. Had he not been brought in, the lines down the middle would have been very weak. 

Hayes didn’t miss a single one of the 69 games the Flyers played this season. During that time, he racked up an impressive 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists). He also had a career best in shorthanded goals (four) and game-winning goals (five). 

On top of the player he has been on the ice, Hayes has also helped the Flyers in many other ways. He’s a big personality and jumped into a leadership role almost instantly. I’d say he exceeded expectations on the first year of his contract. 

A+ … not bad for a former ref


Kevin “I used to ref” Hayes brought a lot of excitement in his first year with the orange and black.

Because of the shortened season, Hayes recorded 23 goals in under 70 games, just two markers short of his career high. His 200-foot style that was anticipated in the preseason thrived in many ways throughout the year, especially on the penalty kill.

Last season, the Flyers' PK ranked 26th in the league, operating at 78.5 percent. This season, the PK ranked 11th at 81.8 percent — Hayes had a lot to do with it. He also led the team with four shorthanded goals — the most in his career.

Offensively, you could argue his consistency could have been stronger. He had a stretch in early November during which he went 10 games without a point and another six-game drought in early February, but when he did end up making it on the score sheet, he was a game-changer. The Flyers were 19-0-1 when Hayes scored a goal during the regular season; he was a spark plug out there. He loved big-game situations, as well — five game-winning goals can attest to that.

Away from his skill, Hayes brought energy, fun off the ice and extremely creative nicknames (very important). 

A- for Hayes.


Hayes began his Flyers tenure with a big contract and big expectations. Last offseason, Hayes signed a seven-year, $50 million deal, which raised some eyebrows. At that time, Hayes had eclipsed the 20-goal plateau only one time in his career. However, through 69 games this season he had 23 goals, just two short of his career high, and he almost certainly would have bested that if the Flyers had played a full 82 games. 

Hayes delivered the full package to a team that desperately needed that when it signed him after trading for his contractual rights ahead of free agency. His two-way game is his most valuable asset and this season we’ve seen Hayes single-handedly kill penalties by keeping possession of the puck. It’s one thing to sign a big-time deal, it’s another to deliver on the expectations set forth by said deal. Additionally, Hayes is an invaluable member of the team in terms of locker room chemistry.

Hayes gets an A.


During his first regular season with the Flyers, Hayes more than lived up to the hype and pressure of signing a seven-year, $50 million deal in this city.

While we tend to fixate on offensive production in this game, especially for higher-paid players, Hayes had an immeasurable impact on the Flyers in the locker room, which can be just as important as any statistic.

But statistically speaking, he also did plenty of good things. Not only did the 28-year-old center make the Flyers tougher to play against, but he was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) and did wonders for the team's penalty kill. In fact, Hayes scored four shorthanded goals, the same number the Flyers put up as a team in 2018-19 over a full 82-game season.

An A- for Hayes because his impact has already been felt in a multitude of ways.

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Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

July 1 came and went rather quietly in the hockey world. Annually, the day is filled with players signing new contracts and joining new teams as the free agency period officially opens.

This year, that was obviously not the case. As the NHL and NHLPA continue to work toward a resumption and eventual conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the entry draft and free agency must wait.

According to a report by TSN's Bob McKenzie, both sides are looking at Nov. 1 being the new July 1.

The offseason will be different and challenging considering the times. The salary cap floor, which typically climbs each year, is expected to remain flat at $81.5 million. In an excellent article published Wednesday, TSN's Frank Seravalli highlighted the key questions and challenges facing free agency, while outlining his top 50 pending unrestricted free agents.

On Seravalli's list were two current Flyers: Justin Braun at No. 19 and Derek Grant at No. 41. Will the Flyers re-sign them? With the league's return-to-play 24-team tournament still to be held, a lot can change from now until Nov. 1, but let's break down the Flyers' outlook for both of these players.


The case for Braun is interesting and the chances of the Flyers re-signing the experienced defenseman feel like 50-50. Braun, a stay-at-home blueliner who specializes in killing plays, helped stabilize the Flyers on the back end and improved their goal-prevention efforts (which were a major problem last season).

However, the Flyers will be cognizant of his age. Braun is 33 years old and made $3.8 million this season. At the current stage of his career, what will Braun be eyeing for his next deal? One would think he'd have to look for a cheaper price if he wants more years on his new contract, something that can be attractive to a veteran player eyeing job security.

The Flyers, though, have solid youth and depth at his position, along with a nice stable of blue-line prospects in the system. Understandably, for those reasons the Flyers might be wary of dedicating years to an older defenseman.

If Braun is willing to be pretty flexible in his terms, the Flyers shouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. He has made them better in 2019-20. But if push comes to shove a bit, especially in a tighter offseason, the Flyers may have to say thank you and move forward with their youngsters or another option.


The initial impression of the Grant trade deadline acquisition was good rental for cheap.

What made Grant such a cost-effective move by general manager Chuck Fletcher? Grant, 29 years old at the time, could help the playoff-hungry Flyers down the stretch with only a $700,000 cap hit and no years left on his contract.

Grant made such a positive impact in his seven-game regular-season audition with the Flyers that they'll absolutely consider re-signing him. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound center also delivered a timely career year of 15 goals and 25 points between his time with the Ducks and Flyers, setting himself up for a nice pay increase.

Grant should be appealing to bring back for the Flyers because he can play down the middle and on the wing; his ability to move around makes him less likely to block a Flyers prospect at a specific position. If Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) is healthy in 2020-21 and the Flyers are deeper at center, Grant can help on the wing. If Patrick's situation remains uncertain and the Flyers lack depth, Grant can bolster things by playing his natural position.

The 24-team tournament could really factor into the Grant equation. If the 30-year-old has an influential tourney and the Flyers go on a run, he could win over the club. He's a quality bottom-six guy who won't require a hefty contract that severely handcuffs the Flyers next season or down the line.

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