Travis Konecny

Why James van Riemsdyk could be Flyers' most important player in 2019-20 (and not for his goal-scoring)

Why James van Riemsdyk could be Flyers' most important player in 2019-20 (and not for his goal-scoring)

When James van Riemsdyk hit the free-agent market last summer, he had just scored a career-high 36 goals and was considered the second-biggest commodity to only John Tavares.

Signing with the Flyers presented a variety of selling points.

Five years, $35 million certainly whet the appetite.

Returning to the organization that drafted him second overall in 2007 was intriguing.

Being back near his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey, held special meaning.

But just as important as all those factors was this: He loved the Flyers' youth.

And still does, despite Year 1 of the reunion falling well short of expectations with a season marred by another slow start, inconsistency and dramatic change.

"That's the beauty of having young guys, we have guys that haven't hit their best hockey yet," van Riemsdyk said April 6 following the Flyers' season-finale loss. "We have a lot of high-end players, too. Everyone's got to be hungry going into the summer. It's not just a time to put your feet up, that's when you make your big strides as a player. You identify things you want to work on and you attack them."

There's excitement about what a healthy and comfortable van Riemsdyk can do for the Flyers throughout a full season in 2019-20 (see story).

However, he may be the Flyers' biggest difference-maker for a separate reason.

The very same youngsters that attracted van Riemsdyk to Philadelphia should attract to the 30-year-old. A proper word to describe van Riemsdyk is professional. He's enjoyed consistent success because of a complete and workmanlike approach that translates into results. 

In each of his last five full seasons, he's scored at least 27 goals. He's netted 30 or more twice. He scored 29 in 2016-17 and would have had over 30 this season if not for an injury that cost him 16 games. So he's awfully close to four 30-goal seasons by the age of 30 and he's played in 59 postseason games.

Sean Couturier is the only other Flyer with two 30-goal seasons and only Claude Giroux has appeared in more playoff games (69).

His young, impressionable teammates — Nolan Patrick (20 years old), Travis Konecny (22) and Oskar Lindblom (22), to name a few among the forwards — can learn from van Riemsdyk.

For the Flyers to have the bounce-back year they want next season, they'll need significant strides from their younger players — in other words, more consistency.

Carter Hart, who was lauded for his maturity entering the pros, took after van Riemsdyk to help with his NHL transition at 20 years old.

"JVR has been a real big help," Hart said in April. "He really pays attention to that side of the game and he's talked to me a little about his approach with the off-ice nutrition and sleep habits and all of his little things that he talks about. He's really helped me just open my eyes to his approach with the off-ice and nutrition and sleep habits, making sure that he's taking care of his body. He's always one of the first guys in the gym and he's always taking care of his body and doing the right thing. It's pretty cool for him to talk to me about that, and it has really opened my eyes."

Van Riemsdyk isn't the guy to get in your face and force-feed you tips on how to be better because he doesn't toot his own horn. But by watching him, by seeking him out, the Flyers can capitalize on more than just his goal production.

"It's something you can't fake, you can't just come in and be a guy who's rah-rah, do it my way, do it this way," van Riemsdyk said. "You've got to live it every day. I love what I do and I love trying to be the best I can be, try to be a good professional, just find an edge to keep improving and improving every single year that I can. You can't really come in Day 1 and beat your chest and say stuff. You remember being in some of the shoes of the young players not so long ago."

What did he do in those shoes?

"I remember just being a sponge in those situations where you're kind of watching and listening probably twice as much as you're saying anything," van Riemsdyk said. "Just kind of seeing the different things guys do to be successful and prepare to play at the best of their abilities every night.

"Just try to prepare the best I can. Be a good pro and set a good example in that respect. As you develop better relationships with guys — that just doesn't happen overnight — but as you develop those relationships with guys, you develop that trust where we can all learn different things from each other."

It could go a long way in the Flyers' 2019-20 aspirations. And it shouldn't require van Riemsdyk to beat his chest, either.

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Flyers at Stars: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Stars: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Flyers can make the Stars start to sweat a little bit.

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Stars (41-31-7, 89 points) can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by earning a point Tuesday night against the Flyers (37-34-8, 82 points).

Let's take a look at tonight's essentials:

• When: 8:30 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 8 p.m.
• Where: American Airlines Center
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers are coming off a 3-0 loss at home Sunday to the New York Rangers as they were shut out for the seventh time this season. It was the first time they were blanked since a 3-0 setback to the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 7.

• The Flyers won the only previous meeting this season between the two teams, a 2-1 win on Jan. 10 at the Wells Fargo Center. Rookie Carter Hart made 38 saves in the winning effort. 

The Flyers will be seeking their first win in Dallas since October 2014, with an 0-2-1 record over their last three visits, and their first two-game sweep over the Stars since the 2010-11 season.

Interim head coach Scott Gordon has been an experimenter of lines and expect more of the same against the Stars. Despite the Flyers coming up empty against the Rangers, Gordon was very pleased with the combination of Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny.

“After the first period, I put Nolan and T.K. and Oskar together and they played against [Mika] Zibanejad and I thought they were excellent," Gordon said. "I thought they were our best line."

• Defensively, the Flyers have been poor in their own end. They’ve yielded three or more goals in each of their past five games for the first time since Dec. 31-Jan. 8. 

• The Stars are the lowest-scoring first-period team by a wide margin as they’ve manufactured just 37 first-period goals this season. The next closest team, the Predators, has 52. 

• On the other hand, the Flyers have the largest negative goal differential in the first period of any team in the NHL at minus-25.

• The Stars and Islanders are the only two teams that have allowed fewer than 200 goals this season. Dallas has turned it around primarily on the strength of its goaltending. Ben Bishop is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy with a 2.03 GAA and a .933 save percentage.

Bishop is day to day with a lower-body injury, so the Stars will start Anton Khudobin against the Flyers again. Khudobin has been solid as well with a 2.49 GAA and a .925 save percentage in 39 games played.

Stars winger Alexander Radulov is on a three-game goal streak with six points over his last five games.

• In somewhat of a bizarre announcement, the Stars made it known on Monday they have a new team pet as the franchise has adopted a cow. They’re now looking to their fans to find a name. Some of the suggestions include Mike Moodano and Joe Mooendyk. Moodano should be the overwhelming choice. 

Projected lineup

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Ryan Hartman
Michael Raffl-Corban Knight-Justin Bailey

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere 
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Samuel Morin

Goalies
Cam Talbot
Carter Hart

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Flyers 5, Maple Leafs 4: Living to see another day after shootout win

Flyers 5, Maple Leafs 4: Living to see another day after shootout win

BOX SCORE

The Flyers are still alive. 

Hardly alive, but for now at least.

By virtue of tiebreakers, the Flyers would have been eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday night with a regulation loss.

They avoided such a scenario by picking up a 5-4 shootout win over the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center. Sean Couturier was the only player to score in the skills competition, while Carter Hart stopped all five attempts he faced (kind of), along with converting 38 saves.

Still, after a 2-5-0 stretch, the Flyers (37-32-8) entered Wednesday with a 0.0 percent chance to make the playoffs by Hockey-Reference.com and SportsClubStats.com.

If the Canadiens beat the Blue Jackets Thursday night, the Flyers will be knocked out for good with five games remaining.

With the victory, the Flyers avoided a season sweep to the Maple Leafs (45-25-7), improving to 1-7-2 this season against contenders Toronto, Washington and Tampa Bay.

• It was nice to see the Flyers exhibit some fight in the second period. Nobody wants to be booted out of the playoff race in front of the home fans. The Flyers erased a 2-0 deficit in the middle stanza with goals from Travis Konecny, Radko Gudas and Couturier.

The goal by Couturier gave him a new career high of 32. He does so much and has been the team's most valuable player — and he's only 26.

• How about Auston Matthews? This play was unreal and tied the game early in the third period.

Things went back and forth afterward, with Ryan Hartman regaining the lead for the Flyers before William Nylander tied it back up 2:33 later.

• A few notes about the Travis boys.

For Travis Sanheim, he finished with two assists after going scoreless in his last eight games.

For Konecny, he scored his first goal in the last nine games. The biggest area in which the 22-year-old can improve next season is consistency.

• Samuel Morin, who had been recovering from a torn ACL suffered in May 2018, made his season debut and played in his first NHL game since Nov. 24, 2017.

With Morin entering the lineup, the Flyers rolled with seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Morin, a 2013 first-round pick, finished with 8:09 ice time, three hits and three blocked shots. He'll see more audition time over the final five games.

Shayne Gostisbehere played only 12:59 and was a minus-2.

• Nolan Patrick made an excellent play to intercept a pass in front during the second period of a 2-2 game, preventing a possible goal. Patrick's defensive responsibilities are always there if the offense isn't, which is important for the 20-year-old. Not long after, the Flyers went ahead on Couturier's goal.

• The Maple Leafs showed off their speed and skill in the opening period to hand the Flyers a 2-0 deficit.

The first goal was a product of great offense. Tyler Ennis made a superb reverse pass behind the net to Connor Brown, catching Gostisbehere and Hartman off-guard in coverage.

The second goal, Toronto was hungrier for the puck as the Flyers failed to break out and the Maple Leafs pounced with Nazem Kadri scoring.

• Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera was in the house. The Phillies' anticipated 2019 opener is Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

• The Flyers play three of their final five games on the road, starting Saturday in Carolina against the Hurricanes (1:30 p.m./NBCSP).

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