The Flyers followed their awful post-Christmas road trip with a ridiculous stretch of games in which they played four of the NHL’s best teams in eight days. It was a run that could have broken them, but actually seems to have made them stronger.
They went 3-1 and opened some eyes around the league. Even Mike Milbury, who has been a Flyers nemesis for more than 40 years, was impressed after Wednesday night’s gutty win in St. Louis.
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— Ed Barkowitz (EBarkowitz@inquirer.com)
Travis Konecny scored the Flyers’ third goal of the night early in the third period Wednesday. It came on a power play, which he drew when he drove Blues forward David Perron nuts with an aggressive battle along the Flyers’ defensive wall.
Konecny has elevated his game and has become more than one of the best yappers in the league. Though that time he called Evgeni Malkin a nerd will always be funny.
“I think this year I’m just trying to focus on both ends of the ice,” he told old friend Brian Boucher on Wednesday night. “I mean it’s cliché, but it does open up a lot of offensive opportunities. And if you can get the trust of the coach, then you get put in [offensive] situations, as well. I think that’s the difference this year.”
Konecny has had 24 goals each of the last two years and is on pace for 26 this season, which would be a personal best. His next assist also will establish a career high. But the sweetest number is that Konecny is still just 22. The six-year, $33 million deal he signed in September could turn out to be a terrific bargain.
In the last three games, Konecny (5-foot-10, 175) has barked at behemoths Braydon Coburn (6-5, 223) and Zdeno Chara (6-9, 250) and baited Perron into that foolish penalty. Will be curious to see if the league looks at it further.
“He reminds me of a lot of guys in this league who have good skills but manage to find other ways to utilize their ice time by being completely a pain in the neck,” analyst and former Boston Bruin Mike Milbury said on NBCSN after Wednesday night’s game. “Konecny is very good at it. Reminds me a little of [Ken] Linseman from a long time ago in a Flyer uniform.”
Linseman wasn’t nicknamed “The Rat” because he was a big fan of cheese. He’d get into your crevice and make you miserable, which he undoubtedly did to Milbury a few times.
Konecny claimed afterward that he was not trying to goad Perron.
“I wasn’t even trying to draw anything there,” TK said. “He apologized. He didn’t even mean to hit me in the face. I think I just kind of came up [off the ice] and he caught me. But yeah, that’s part of my game to play that style sometimes and stay under guys’ skin. But sometimes, it takes you out of your game because you start worrying about things you shouldn’t. I think today was a good balance for everybody.”
Konecny will be back in St. Louis next weekend representing the Flyers. As Chara said after Konecny beat Boston with a shootout goal Monday at the Wells Fargo Center, “he competes. He plays hard. There’s a reason why he’s been selected to the All-Star Game.”
Milbury’s fellow studio analyst Wednesday was Keith Jones, who also calls Flyers games when they’re televised locally. He said Konecny reminds him of Boston’s Brad Marchand, one of the league’s most notorious annoying and effective players.
“They’re fun to watch, those guys,” Milbury said. “It takes a lot of courage to do the things that they do and a lot of skill to play the way Konecny’s been playing.”
It’ll be 1980s night at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. Lots of memories from back then, even if it was the first full decade in team history that the Flyers didn’t win a championship. We just started the fifth consecutive decade without a title, but there’s no sense in spraying ice in everyone’s faces.
It began with Leon Stickle swallowing his whistle in the 1980 Finals and closed with Ron Hextall serving a 12-game suspension for pummeling Chris Chelios in the 1989 playoffs. (That contributed to 1989-90 being an epic disaster, by the way.)
The Flyers went to the Finals three times in the 1980s. Bobby Clarke retired and Pelle Lindbergh was killed in a car accident while driving drunk. They also had a massive brawl with the Canadiens before a playoff game even started. Old-time hockey. Eddie Shore.
No one asked, but here are the 10 best Flyers of the 1980s.
If Alex Lyon starts Thursday, he’ll be the third goalie the Flyers have used this year. At the same point last season, they had used five. So that’s progress.
The Flyers are 25-16-6 (56 points) and hanging on to a playoff spot. Through 47 games last season, they were 18-23-6 and in 15th place in the 16-team Eastern Conference. That’s real progress.
Today: Montreal at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Saturday: Los Angeles at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Tuesday, Jan. 21: Pittsburgh at Flyers, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Saturday, Jan. 25: All-Star Game, at St. Louis, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Friday, Jan. 31: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Monday, Feb. 24: Trade deadline, 3 p.m.