Flyers

Was Konecny healthy? He has that answer but Vigneault eager to help him find others

Flyers

Travis Konecny had not experienced a goal-scoring drought like this since his rookie year.

Sixteen games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament and no markers from the All-Star, the Flyers' regular-season leader in both goals (24) and points (61) for a breakout career year.

Konecny is a different player from his rookie year. His rookie year, in which he went a 22-game stretch without a goal, was actually not all that long ago. It was 2016-17 when the 2015 first-round pick made the Flyers as a 19-year-old.

He's now 23 years old and expectations have risen. He is still young, though, and experiencing some firsts.

"You look at the role Konecny had and other players along the way," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last week in his end-of-the-season video interview. "We had some young guys get a taste of it this year."

For Konecny, it simultaneously provided a taste of the pressure to produce. While that burden was felt by Konecny in crunch time, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs also marked his first extended postseason run at the NHL level, when the microscope is placed on performance. He entered the tournament with one goal in six career games of playoff experience. He left it without changing the goal total.

Konecny finished this postseason with seven assists, a plus-3 rating, 14 penalty minutes and 29 shots over 17:26 minutes per game in 16 contests. His frustration became visible as he failed to put the puck in the net.

"There’s no doubt that Travis didn’t perform to obviously his expectations and ours in the playoffs," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday in his end-of-the-season video interview. "He’s a young player full of potential. I believe that I’ll be able to help him a lot moving forward.

 

"There’s no doubt that he was pressing and because he was pressing, it led to turnovers that led to good opportunities from the opposition. T.K.’s a great young man that’s got a lot of potential. We’re going to work with him and he’s going to become the best player that he can be."

To Konecny's credit, he has not made excuses. He has worn the blame. He blocked a shot with his left foot in Game 2 of the Flyers' first-round series against the Canadiens. He was forced to leave the action in the third period and did not return to the blowout 5-0 loss.

On Thursday, he was asked if the result of the blocked shot hampered him the remainder of the playoffs.

"Honestly, not at all," he said. "When I blocked that, it was more less just kind of a pinched nerve at the time. I mean, it hurt the next several days, but it wasn't anything that was a factor to disrupting my play going forward.

"For me, personally, I was trying hard to find my game and get back to where I was at the break when the season stopped. I think I was just fighting it a little bit and trying to find other ways to contribute to the team, just find ways to win games. Honestly, I wish I knew the exact answer because I would have tried to change it when we were going through the playoffs."

Last offseason, Konecny self-reflected and came into 2019-20 determined to show he could bring everything to the table to help the Flyers win games. The mindset translated into a career year.

"When I came back, for this season, it was just really focusing on trying to play the right way," Konecny said. "It was a new coaching staff, so a clean slate, I wanted to prove that I could be more than just offense and I could be a 200-foot player.

"The 200-foot part of my game is what allowed me to take another step and get put in different situations to put up points."

The next step will be showing it come playoff time. Konecny and Vigneault found success together in Year 1.

Together, they'll have to find answers for the playoffs in Year 2.