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Building off a breakthrough: Travis Konecny

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers have a couple of players who could be restricted free agents in the summer of 2019. One of them in Konecny, who posted 24-23—47 in 81 games last season while averaging 14:54 of ice time. He was most productive with linemates Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux, chipping in 27 of his 47 points at 5-on-5 with those two. The top line chemistry was unmatched as all three produced career seasons.

That was a big difference from 2016-17 when he was mixing time with Couturier, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn during a rookie season that produced 10 goals and 28 points in just over 14 minutes of ice time a night.

[2017-18 review | Under Pressure: JvR | 3 Questions]

He learned from those rookie year benchings, minimized his mistakes and took smarter risks. All of that combined for a breakout season and the trust of head coach Dave Hakstol that he can hold his own on the top line.

But how much of his success can be attributed to the seasons of Couturier and Giroux? Konecny wasn’t as productive during early and late seasons stints off the top line and the defensive side of his game also suffered away from those two. Which should probably tell Hakstol to keep the 21-year-old with them, seeing as how well they work together and that there could be more to his game that’s yet to be unlocked.

“I think I’ve narrowed my game to where it’s effective for me and the team,” Konecny said in March. “This is good for me, I’m learning a lot. Honestly, I’m trying to play as safe as I can and as smart as I can and gain the trust of the coaching staff. Things like good defense leads to good offense, everyone says it, and cliché, but it seems to be working. I was worried about making mistakes before earlier this season. As of right now, I’m playing with a confidence that if I can’t make a play this time, I’ll get a chance to make a play the next time.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Pittsburgh funeral home celebrates Flyers’ playoff exit with custom prayer cards

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Any time one of the Battle of Pennsylvania participants can get one up on the other, they celebrate having bragging rights loudly and proudly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in six games in their first-round matchup and as you can imagine, the Steel City faithful have been enjoying it. On top of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, they’ve also been able to relish winning three of the last four series that these teams have played.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Adding to the chorus of chirps is the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home and Crematory in East Pittsburgh, who said goodbye to the dearly departed Flyers in their own unique way with prayer cards.

Via Facebook:

Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home & Crematory

“Help us send our condolences to the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans, with these custom prayer cards memorializing their run in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Share for all of our friends in Philly!” read the caption of their Facebook post.

The Flyers have lost six times in the Stanley Cup Final since winning back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. The Penguins, meanwhile, have won five championships in six Final appearances since 1991, something that’s certainly never been lost on the city in their battles with Philadelphia over the years.

Now Flyers fans can root for their second favorite hockey team: “Anyone playing the Penguins.”

Stick-tap Benstonium

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers ready for ‘next man up’ mentality with Couturier out for Game 4

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PHILADELPHIA — Before the Philadelphia Flyers fully trickled out to the Wells Fargo Center ice for their optional morning skate ahead of Game 4 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, live stream), the word from the team was that there was no update on Sean Couturier, who was injured following a collision with Radko Gudas during Tuesday’s practice.

When pressed, all head coach Dave Hakstol would say is that it’s a game-time decision. If Couturier is out, that could mean rookie Nolan Patrick centering the top line or Claude Giroux moving from the wing to back down the middle.

“We’ll be ready and prepared, regardless of what the lineup is,” Hakstol said. “You can’t center it around one or two players.”

“Anytime somebody gets injured or traded, it’s a great opportunity for guys to step up,” said Giroux. The Flyers captain would reference their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final that saw players like Ville Leino and Giroux himself step up when Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne were forced from the lineup. It’s understood that it’s next man up in these situations.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Patrick would see his responsibilities upped should Couturier sit, as there’s the possibility of him being matched up with Sidney Crosby.

“If the lines are different I wouldn’t change how I play against [Crosby],” Patrick said.

There’s no replacing what Couturier brings to the Flyers lineup. Patrick called him “one of the best two-way players” he’s ever seen, and if the option for Hakstol to play him in all situations is taken away for Game 4, that would leave a big hole in a vital game for Philadelphia.

The penalty kill would take a hit in his absence, a unit that was overwhelmed in Game 3 and allowed three goals on seven Penguins power play opportunities. Six of those penalties were stick infractions, and while relying on special teams isn’t something that necessarily built into Mike Sullivan’s game plan, the Flyers did make sure to talk about being smarter. Going back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 is something they want to avoid.

“I think everyone knows those mistakes before our coach even tells us,” Patrick said. “Can’t happen and we’ll be better in that area.”

More: Flyers hoping new lines can get offense going vs. Penguins

UPDATE:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Malkin, Dumoulin help Penguins score twice in five seconds vs. Flyers (Video)

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PHILADELPHIA — After a first period where they were outshot 11-4 but held a 1-0 lead, the Pittsburgh Penguins used the middle period to really separate themselves in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Penguins would capitalize on two power play goals in the second period with Derick Brassard netting his first of the playoffs 2:48 in to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, with Pittsburgh on a 4-on-3 power play, Kris Letang set up Evgeni Malkin for a one-timer,  which resulted in goal number three on the afternoon.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

As Flyers fans inside Wells Fargo Center were coming to grips with the three-goal deficit, the ensuing face-off following the Malkin goal quickly led to another Penguins scoring chance, with Sidney Crosby winning the draw and then finding Brian Dumoulin to make it 4-0.

According to the NHL, Pittsburgh’s two goals in five seconds matches a playoff record for two goals by one team. The feat did make Penguins franchise history in beating the previous playoff record of seven seconds set by Ron Stackhouse and Rick Kehoe in 1980.

Two goals in five seconds and a 4-1 lead after the second period is certainly a good way to respond to their ineffectiveness offensively on Friday night. The Penguins would hang on and take Game 3, 5-1, for a 2-1 series lead.

“It was big,” said Letang afterward, “I think our [special teams] were the reason we lost in Game 2. I think tonight they answered really well and those two goals were big for us.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers survive Bruins third-period rally in 4-3 overtime win

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Give credit to the Boston Bruins — the word ‘quit’ isn’t one that computes with the Atlantic Division leaders — but the Philadelphia Flyers had no intentions of giving up either on Easter Sunday.

That isn’t to say they’d be blamed if they did. Game-tying goals with 3.8 seconds left in the third period can be deflating, to say the least.

But after Patrice Bergeron tied the game up with mere seconds left on the game clock, Claude Giroux, who had already scored in regulation, added another highlight-reel marker to his repertoire in a 4-3 overtime win for the Flyers — their 40th — on the NHL on NBC.

Giroux’s marker was his 29th, setting a new career-high in goals after previously setting a new career-high in points with 94 earlier in the game after his first goal.

Boston trailed 3-1 after Nolan Patrick scored on a breakaway 25 seconds into the third period, but found the strength to mount a comeback, finding it through David Pastrnak at 6:54 and then Bergeron’s 30th of the season at 19:56.

The Bruins, who played to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers 24 hours earlier could have just rolled over for the rest of the period after Patrick’s goal, but found a way to eek out a point to extend their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning (who play later on Sunday) to two points in the race for top spot in the Atlantic.

The win was big for the Flyers, who moved level with the Columbus Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division on 94 points. Perhaps most importantly, the win moved Philly three points ahead of the New Jersey Devils who sit a spot behind the Flyers in the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey is set to play later on Sunday.

The Flyers took a 1-0 lead after a nasty save from Petr Mrazek, who finished with 35 saves in the contest, kept the games nil-nil in the first period.

After winning the ensuing faceoff, the Flyers produced a nice breakout and created an odd-man situation that was capped off by Giroux, who fired home the one-timer for his 28th of the season.

The goal also pushed the 30-year-old’s point streak to seven games.

The Flyers doubled their advantage on a spectacular goal that is sure to be in the running for goal of the season.

Travis Konecny picked up a loose puck just inside the Bruins zone, split both David Pastrnak and Adam McQuaid and then beat Patrice Bergeron before tucking the puck past Anton Khudobin.

Khudobin allowed four goals on 20 shots in the loss.

Boston moved to 110 points with the win, one back of the Nashville Predators in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville can do Boston a favor with a win over the Lightning later on Sunday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck