It’s only one game.
For the Flyers, you will hear that a lot right now and justifiably so.
The team last Friday won its fourth straight season opener. The season-opening victories over the past three years did not translate into much by season’s end (see story).
Oftentimes, one can only hope an early trend grows into a season-long difference.
Will it happen with Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom?
The Flyers need it to.
Both young forwards rose to the Flyers with anticipation among the fan base.
Konecny was a 2015 first-round pick with a 101-point season at the junior level. He had everyone buzzing during the 2016 preseason, when he showed he was ready for the Flyers at 19 years old.
Lindblom was a 2014 fifth-round pick that got better and better in Sweden. He was on everybody’s radar when he earned 2016-17 Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, telling the Flyers just how far he had come.
In 2019-20, the two wingers will be mightily important for the Flyers if the team wants to bring playoff hockey back to Philadelphia — and then do something with it, too.
The 22-year-old Konecny and 23-year-old Lindblom were key reasons why the Flyers’ season opener was such a positive one. Konecny scored two goals and Lindblom netted one to go along with a team-high five shots, giving the Flyers complete control of an eventual 4-3 win over the Blackhawks. All three markers represented signs of full-season potential and how it could change the Flyers.
In 2018-19, the Flyers were 5-20-3 when Sean Couturier went scoreless, 10-19-2 when Claude Giroux went scoreless and 10-19-2 when Jakub Voracek went scoreless. The trio went scoreless in the win over the Blackhawks.
Last year, Lindblom scored four goals through his first 45 games. He played just 11:34 minutes per game during the stretch. Over his final 36 games, Lindblom played 16:28 minutes a night, scored 13 goals and 21 points, while the Flyers went 20-14-2. Prior to that, the Flyers were tied for 30th in the 31-team NHL standings.
“He’s extremely versatile, we’ve seen the different things that he can do,” James van Riemsdyk said during training camp. “He can play with really skilled players, he’s got that skill and that mind for the game, and that allows him to do a lot of different things out there — whether that’s playing a shutdown role or playing an offensive role.”
Last year, Konecny scored three goals through his first 19 games. His first multi-goal game came on Nov. 17 and the Flyers were 15-4-2 when he scored at least one goal. His best run was from Jan. 19 to March 11, when he put up 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) and a plus-8 mark in 22 games, while the Flyers went 16-4-2.
"What I see is a young man that has got a lot of energy, wants to learn how to play the right way,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said on Sept. 25. “It's not just about offense, he wants to defend and he wants to defend well.
“A skilled player like that has got to be allowed to try different things, but there are times in a game where your decisions with the puck permit you to continue and go on the attack. The wrong decisions make the other team attack."
Konecny and Lindblom were on the attack in the season opener.
Konecny has 30-goal upside after back-to-back 24-goal seasons. Lindblom has a chance to score in the 20-goal range following a 17-goal rookie year.
“You have to start in the right end, play good defense and go from there,” Lindblom said during training camp. “It’s a long season and you have to be there every day, do your thing, and then you’re going to play and hopefully score some goals.”
The opener was only one game.
If Konecny and Lindblom are there every day, in consistent roles, the Flyers will be a different team in 2019-20 — and Friday will be more than just one game.
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