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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

BOX SCORE

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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Travis Konecny scores Flyers' first goal of 2019-20 season in NHL Global Series

Travis Konecny scores Flyers' first goal of 2019-20 season in NHL Global Series

It's always fun to predict who will score the first goal of a new Flyers season.

In 2016-17, trying to do so was truly unpredictable. Boyd Gordon netted the Flyers' first marker. He played 13 games with the Flyers and it was his only goal while wearing the orange and black.

This season, the first goal went to a guy that's going to score many more with the Flyers: Travis Konecny.

The 22-year-old dynamo, fresh off signing a new six-year, $33 million contract, blasted home a first period goal Friday against the Blackhawks in Prague, Czech Republic (see video above).

Konecny was a restricted free agent all offseason and missed the first three days of training camp because he didn't have a new contract. Despite missing some time, the winger vowed he would be ready for the season opener — and showed it Friday.

Oh, and then he did this:

The 2015 first-round pick has been a productive player in season openers with five points (two goals, three assists) in four games.

Here are the Flyers' first goal scorers over the past six seasons:

• Travis Konecny — 2019-20
• Oskar Lindblom — 2018-19
• Claude Giroux — 2017-18
• Boyd Gordon — 2016-17
• Matt Read — 2015-16
• Sean Couturier — 2014-15

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Flyers vs. Blackhawks season opener: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Blackhawks season opener: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

It all begins Friday in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Flyers kick off their 2019-20 regular season against the Blackhawks as part of the NHL Global Series.

Is this team poised for a return to the playoffs? We have our predictions here.

Meanwhile, let's get into Friday's essentials:

When: 2 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: O2 Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• Here are the NHL's leading scorers since 2013-14:

Sidney Crosby — 551 points
Patrick Kane — 514 points
Alex Ovechkin — 476 points
Claude Giroux — 471 points

Giroux has 23 points and a plus-9 rating in 16 career regular season games against the Blackhawks.

• In 2018-19, the Blackhawks allowed the NHL's second-most goals (291) and the Flyers surrendered the third most (280).

The Flyers believe a full year of Carter Hart and the acquisitions of Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun will lower that figure.

The Blackhawks are hoping the additions of Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan (when healthy), along with Corey Crawford, will improve things on their end.

• Last season, Hart beat the Blackhawks in his lone matchup against Chicago. He made 40 saves on 41 shots.

• The Flyers have won their last three season openers by a combined score of 14-7.

• This is fun:


Quotable

It's always for them. To see me play at home and what the people are saying about me in the stands, I think it's going to give them a good feeling about they raised me well and they did something right.

- Jakub Voracek on playing in front of his native fans

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Carsen Twarynski
Connor Bunnaman-Michael Raffl-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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