Flyers

Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The game wasn't even a minute old before Flyers rookie Travis Konecny tripped the Devils' Travis Zajac.

Konecny stayed down on all fours watching the referee's hand. He already knew his fate had been sealed with coach Dave Hakstol once he returned to his own bench.

"When I looked up, my stick got caught in the back of [Zajac's] heel," Konecny said. "I threw my stick down, let go, but he kinda stumbled over my stick. I kinda looked at the ref to say, 'I let go of my stick and not trip him.'"

He still got the penalty. Still incurred the wrath of Hakstol, who benched him until five minutes into the second period.

It's happened more than once this season -- even being scratched two separate times.

"I understood what was happening … I knew I would get another opportunity in the game," Konecny said. "It's just part of it. Something I have to look at myself and know I should not take that penalty at the start of the game …

"You can't have that happen in the first shift of the game. It takes away the momentum from the whole team and puts it in their hands."

Hakstol didn't feel the punishment deserved a lot of explanation on his part.

"We'll talk a little bit tomorrow,” the coach after Tuesday's 1-0 overtime loss. "You don't need to do it within five minutes of the game and that's one, quite honestly, we don't need to discuss a whole lot."

 

Konecny, who turned 20 last month, says his rookie season here has been both "humbling" and an eye-opening experience. He regrets some things but nothing that has happened to him on the ice. Negatives turn to positives if your attitude is right.

"There are guys in this room, who tell me they have gone through the exact same things I have gone through during my first year," he said. "Whether it's being scratched a few times or playing on the fourth line through the first, anywhere in the lineup.

"It's all part of the game. I learned this year to stay confident and work hard. Eventually, you get your chances."

Both Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere were Hakstol's poster boys for discipline this season while certain veterans, who committed far more egregious errors, or simply disappeared for games on end, skated off without discipline. No benchings, no cut in ice time.

Yet Konecny doesn't feel he was singled out, nor does Gostisbehere. At least, that's what both have said publicly.

"I personally don't think that is a fair assessment," Konecny said. "I would look at it a lot different. It's just that I have a lot to learn. I am a young player …

"Guys who are taking penalties and not getting benched have earned a lot of respect throughout the league. They earned their place on the team and that right to get second and third chances."

Konecny goes into the final two games of the season this weekend with 11 goals and 28 points in 68 games. Not bad, yet given his skill set, he was capable of scoring at least 15 goals and 40 points.

"I think Travis has been good," general manager Ron Hextall said. "He's a young kid and there is some things to learn, there's no question. He's paid attention and overall had a pretty good year."

Hindsight is never good, but did the organization do the right thing in not sending him back to junior?

"I think I probably would have [kept him]," Hextall said. "He [was] 19 years old. You gotta be really careful with a 19-year-old. I think his energy level and stuff, which is one of the things that goes down as the year goes on, has stayed at a high level.

"I think there's things in his game he's gotta get better at, but he's been a good player for us. I don't think anyone in our organization has been disappointed with him."

Konecny isn't disappointed, either.

"It's definitely a humbling league," he said. "You got to learn every day, you can't take anything for granted and make sure if there's guys like Jakey and G still out there that are still working on things and getting better, then it's definitely capable for a young guy like me to keep doing that.

"We played hard this year. I'm not disappointed. Obviously, disappointed about not making the playoffs, but I'm not disappointed in our guys. We gave it everything we had."

 

He said he learned a valuable team lesson, as well: games in October are every bit as important as games in February during the stretch run.

The Flyers talked all through camp about getting off to a quick start. Hakstol preached multiple times about not playing "catch-up" hockey at the end.

So what happened? The Flyers had just nine points in October -- 4-5-1.  They also had nine points (4-6-1) in February when the season was lost.

"It's a good experience for me to learn that it's hard to make up points in this league," he said. "Every game, including October 12 [14] was it when we started? Those points matter from then, till the end of the year."