Travis Konecny's push for a roster spot catching Flyers' eyes

Travis Konecny's push for a roster spot catching Flyers' eyes

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The longer Travis Konecny lasts through Flyers training camp, the more pressure he exerts on veterans whose job could be up for grabs.
Players such as Matt Read, who’s been in just one exhibition game thus far.
The 19-year-old Konecny has played with top players in exhibitions — Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn plus Sean Couturier and Jacob Voracek — and been impressive. Read says he’s been cognizant of him, too.
“I’ve watched all the kids and he’s played good out there,” Read said. “He’s doing well. Young kid in the right spots, creating offense. He’s playing good hockey.”
Read is aware of the pressure, but also feels he has played well.
“My body and everything is ready for the opening night of the season,” he said, adding he needs another exhibition game to get in battle-ready mode with more one-on-one battles.
Read’s spot is vulnerable given he’s had declining numbers over the past two seasons, while not posting a 20-goal season since 2013-14.
Interestingly, general manager Ron Hextall said at the start of camp he has faith in Read and reinforced his stance Sunday while cautioning not to read anything into games played.
“The plan all along with us was to load up … look at kids and sprinkle some veterans in there,” Hextall said. “Actually, Reader has had a really good camp. His testing was good. In practice he was really good. We’re happy with Reader.”
Before camp began, Hextall acknowledged the decline in Read’s game.
“Whether or not he can get back to that 20-25 goal mark, we need Matt to be a good player for us and he’s obviously in here, one of the first veterans who’s here,” Hextall said in September. “I think that shows what his mentality is.”
The sense remains that Konecny, who has stood out, will nonetheless return to junior at some point. Konecny could start the season on a nine-game tryout because Schenn will miss the opening three games with a suspension, imposed after the playoffs last spring.
Even if that occurs, it doesn’t guarantee Konency stays here through the tryout.
“We haven’t played a veteran-laden lineup yet, but both have been good,” Hextall said of Konecny and defenseman Ivan Provorov, who is expected to make the roster.
As for how Schenn’s absence affects things, Hextall admitted he hasn’t ruled anything out, even keeping Konency around just for that scenario.
“That’s something we’ve got to work out,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of issues. Waiver issues, left wing, right wing issues. It’s not a perfect world having Brayden out three games. It gives us something else to bring into the equation.”
Additionally, Hextall gave strong support to Russian forward Roman Lyubimov, whose English is far more advanced than Evgeny Medvedev's was, and seems to grasp everything the coaching staff throws at him.
The 24-year-old Lyubimov’s extensive playing time in the KHL directly affects Konency in terms of a roster spot.
“I really like his game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “You saw it over in Europe. He played a North American game. Goes to the net hard. A big, heavy body and gets in on the forecheck. He’s done a lot of really good things.”
Coach Dave Hakstol echoed those sentiments.
“He keeps earning the next opportunity,” Hakstol said. “I guess that’s what he is supposed to do. He continues to show small improvements in areas of his game and he works at it away from the ice.
“He studies his game. He takes mistakes he sees from the previous day and applies it and tries to improve it … He works his tail off.”
Read understands all of this and takes nothing for granted. His best season was his first as a Flyer when he scored 24 goals with 47 points. That was five years and two coaches ago.
“I would say the last two years have been very disappointing,” Read said. “I try not to think too much on all that stuff, but obviously, something has to change to get to scoring more goals than I am now or than I have in the last two years.
“Yeah, it’s been frustrating, but if it’s not working you have to change something to fix it. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing. We’ll see how the season goes here, take it one game at a time.”
The final roster is due Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

With back-to-back wins, are Flyers finally starting to mature?

With back-to-back wins, are Flyers finally starting to mature?

When Jori Lehtera was sent off the ice for a five-minute boarding major and a 10-minute game misconduct Wednesday night, the most loyal followers of the orange and black had every reason to believe the Flyers were entering their self-destruction phase once again.

After all, we had seen this storyline play out on numerous occasions already this season.

Forced to kill off a five-minute power play to the NHL second-ranked power play should have doomed this team, but against the Bruins, something was different.

“We’re starting to show some character and maturity, even playing with a lead we’re a little bit more comfortable now,” Sean Couturier said after scoring a natural hat trick in the Flyers' 4-3 win over the Bruins (see observations). “We’re doing some little things right.”

A lot of those little things have been resolved finally through their penalty kill, in which the Flyers successfully killed off nine straight minutes of power-play time, including nearly six minutes in a hard-fought third period. For those who believed assistant coach Ian Laperriere should take the fall for the PK’s horrific start this season, interim head coach Scott Gordon begs to differ.

“Lappy has done a great job as far as the pre-scouting. You guys don’t see that,” Gordon said. “He’s been on target every single time. As far as the aggressiveness, that’s the one thing I’ve been really pleased with. When you lose a lot of games, you realize what’s not going right. Sometimes you have to learn through the struggles and the adversity.”

That aggressiveness is why the Flyers have now strung together back-to-back wins for just the second time in the past two months, and the biggest part of that success is a rookie goaltender that many within the organization believed needed the necessary AHL seasoning before he could be thrown into the frying pan of an NHL game.

Eleven games into his career, the 20-year-old Carter Hart is playing like he has the emotional fortitude of someone in their mid-to-late 40s. It just seems like there’s no way Hart could have the capacity to handle the adversity of falling behind 2-0 in back-to-back games to only stay composed and have his team rally back to beat the Wild and the Bruins.    

“You can tell he’s a mature kid,” Couturier said. “He prepares himself pretty well. He does a lot of little things away from the rink that help his game on the ice. He’s pretty calm back there. He’s above his age.”   

“I think it’s just how you approach the game. It’s everything,” Hart said. “It’s coming to the rink for practice, for games, whatever it is. Just coming in ready to work. I think if you work hard no matter how old you are, guys will respect you.”

With that, Hart gets to the heart of the matter. He embraces putting in the hard work of practice, much like Couturier has done from the time he started his NHL career at the age of 18. You can’t create a championship culture by cutting a few corners. So if the organization is planning ahead to next season, Hart and Couturier should be those cornerstone players. 

Outside of that, the Flyers have a lot more maturing to go through if they want to join the league’s elite.

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Flyers 4, Bruins 3: Sean Couturier records first career regular-season hat trick in win

Flyers 4, Bruins 3: Sean Couturier records first career regular-season hat trick in win


Would you believe the Flyers have their first winning streak in almost a full month?

Sean Couturier registered his first career regular-season hat trick Wednesday night as the Flyers knocked off the Bruins, 4-3, at the Wells Fargo Center. It's the Flyers' second straight win and second straight game in which a Flyer had a hat trick — James van Riemsdyk had one Monday.

Despite being badly outshot, the Flyers received outstanding goaltending again from Carter Hart, and surprisingly, the penalty kill is stepping up in a big way.

• There’s been a lot of talk linking the Bruins and Wayne Simmonds. The Bruins, having scratched David Backes for this game, have been looking to add some toughness and grit. If the two sides engage in trade talks, there’s two players that caught my eye in this game: left winger Peter Cehlarik and defenseman Brandon Carlo. Of course, the Bruins may not have interest in parting with either player, but Cehlarik certainly looks like a player who could be slotted in a top-six role, scoring two, while Carlo brings size and an ability to jump in offensively.

• I’ve discussed how the Flyers' PK was a personnel issue during Dave Hakstol’s time here when he tried to incorporate guys like Oskar Lindblom and Jori Lehtera into a heavy PK role. Lindblom has improved his shorthanded play, and it showed in this game. Operating at roughly 83 percent over their past 25 games, the PK had a defining moment in this game when it was forced to kill a five-minute major. It helped tremendously that the penalty extended from the end of the second period to the beginning of the third, but not only did the PK keep the Bruins to the outside, but Hart came up with three key saves.

• Not just that, but the Flyers were also whistled for too many men and Scott Laughton was called for hooking with eight minutes remaining in regulation. This may be the first game this season where the Flyers can say their penalty kill won them the game.

• The result of the extended power play came as a result of a boneheaded play from Lehtera after he dumped Ryan Donato head-first into the boards. It was Lehtera’s second penalty as he racked up 17 PIM and barely saw the ice in the third period. In case you’re asking, I have no idea why he’s still on this team. They can’t dump him in Lehigh Valley as the Phantoms have reached their veteran max, but after this game, the only way I’m playing Lehtera is in the event of an emergency.

• I was surprised at the pace of the opening 20 minutes — very loose and open as you would expect the Bruins to play tighter defensively. The Flyers had a couple of cross-ice plays that led to quality scoring chances, including one from Nolan Patrick, who was robbed by Jaroslav Halak’s right pad on the crease. Once again, that third line of Patrick, Simmonds and Laughton played well and gelled early.

• Flyers leading scorer Sean Couturier added two goals in a span of one minute and 15 seconds before adding a third for his first regular-season hat trick late in the third period. Quietly, Couturier now has 19 goals and is now on track for his second straight 30-goal season. If I had to vote right now for the Bobby Clarke Award as Flyers MVP, Couturier would be the guy.  

• Couturier should have been awarded a penalty shot when he was interfered with in the final seconds of the game. Had David Krejci now obstructed Couturier’s path, he would have scored four goals.

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