It’s All-Star weekend, a time for the players to decompress and for the coaches, at least Alain Vigneault, to sip on some martinis while savoring the improvements made and the adjustments to come.
The Flyers have 12 more points than they did at this same point a year ago mainly because their team defense is 12th in the league. It was 29th a year ago.
And they’re still fighting for their playoff lives.
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The NHL will announce Thursday which skills competition Travis Konecny will participate in on Friday in St. Louis. The contests he could compete in include fastest skater, shooting accuracy, hardest shot, and a target shooting test that is new this year. Ten players will stand on a platform 30 feet up and behind the goal, and try to hit targets on the ice. Sounds like H-O-R-S-E, but on ice skates.
If there was a contest for annoying the opposition, Konecny would be among the favorites. NBC would be wise to mic him up.
Claude Giroux has been to six All-Star Games. He said his first one, in 2011 in Raleigh alongside Danny Briere, and the following year in Ottawa near his hometown stood out as special memories. “I’ve got all the jerseys and sticks,” Giroux said. “Those are all pretty special to me.”
Konecny started the season with two goals and an assist in the win over Chicago in the Czech Republic. He’s already set a career high with 26 assists, and his 43 points at the break put him on pace for 71. His career best is 49. That brief training-camp holdout is a distant memory.
“He’s been playing well this year, and I think he’s going to enjoy it,” Giroux said of Konecny and All-Star weekend. “He’s bringing his family, and the NHL does a good job making sure players are taken care of at those events.”
The skills competition will be at 8 p.m. Friday on NBCSN. The All-Star Game, which is more like a 3-on-3 forest fire for 20 minutes at a time, will be Saturday (8 p.m., NBC). Konecny should flourish in the wide-open format.
Just to have a little fun, we sampled a few Flyers for their opinions on which teammates were the best at certain skills. Konecny was well represented. But so was Phil Myers. Here’s a quick roundup of what we found.
Hardest shot: Everybody’s got a pretty good one. I’ll say Ivan Provorov.
Most dangerous on a breakaway: Sean Couturier
Best at target shooting: Travis Konecny
Best stick handler: Claude Giroux. He’s pretty smooth.
Hardest shot: Phil Myers has a really heavy shot.
Most dangerous on a breakaway: Claude Giroux.
Best stick handler: Travis Konecny.
Hardest shot: Phil Myers
Best stick handler: Claude Giroux (answered instantly)
Most dangerous on a breakaway: Travis Konecny
Fastest skater: Phil Myers
Hardest shot: “Myzzie” (Phil Myers)
Fastest skater: “Cube” (Nic Aube-Kubel)
Best stick handler: "G" (Claude Giroux)
Most dangerous on a breakaway: I would say Hayesie [Kevin Hayes].
The Flyers might be idle for the next week, but we won’t be. Got plenty of stories planned, plus others that were recently published.
Former Flyers enforcer and current St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube on his first All-Star nod: “I just didn’t have the ability to do that [as a player]," he told NHL.com.
Berube, who stopped by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday, led the Blues to last year’s miraculous championship run and will coach the Central Division on Saturday thanks to his team’s occupying first in the standings.
“For me, I was just trying to survive every year and grind out another year," said Berube, who racked up the equivalent of 56 hours in penalty minutes during his 17-year career. "That’s the way I looked at it. Year to year, you know?”
Rick Tocchet, another former Flyer, will coach the Pacific Division because Vegas fired Gerard Gallant. Washington’s Todd Reirden and Boston’s Bruce Cassidy will lead the Metro and Atlantic Divisions, respectively.
Parx’s and DraftKings’ Flyers odds are 40-1 to win the Stanley Cup and 21-1 to win the Eastern Conference. FanDuel has them at 36-1 for the Cup and 19-1 for the East.
The Flyers (60 points) would be on the outside, falling one point short of a playoff spot. They are behind Carolina, which just lost its best player. The Hurricanes, it should be noted, are 2-0-1 without Dougie Hamilton. Maybe they’re not just going to fold like a lawn chair.
Here are the current matchups in the East:
Washington (71 points) vs. Carolina (61)
Boston (70) vs. Columbus (62)
Pittsburgh (67) vs. N.Y. Islanders (63)
Tampa Bay (62) vs. Florida (61)
Here are the current matchups in the West:
St. Louis (68) vs. Vegas (57)
Vancouver (58) vs. Arizona (57)
Colorado (62) vs. Dallas (58)
Edmonton (57) vs. Calgary (57)
Tomorrow: All-Star skills competition, at St. Louis, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Saturday: All-Star Game, at St. Louis, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Friday, Jan. 31: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Saturday, Feb. 1: Colorado at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP+)
Monday, Feb. 3: Flyers at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSP+)
Thursday, Feb. 6: New Jersey at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Monday, Feb. 24: Trade deadline, 3 p.m.
Scott Layou, who certainly outkicked his coverage if his Twitter profile is to be believed, asks an important question:
Q: So if/when Nolan Patrick comes back, should there be a concern for both he and fans for long-term injury repercussions? Whatever these migraines are, were they brought on by physical contact or did they just manifest neurologically? Hoping he recovers and has a long career.
A: Patrick has chosen to keep details of his condition private, which I think we can all respect. He still is around the team often; in fact, he was skating at the Flyers’ practice facility this week. But he hasn’t spoken publicly in six weeks. Back then, he expressed optimism of playing at some point this season.
Obviously, each day that goes by diminishes that optimism. Personally, I am super-sensitive when it comes to head injuries, having watched Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau and numerous NFL players deal with the effects of head injuries. But for every Jim McMahon who struggles so badly in retirement, there is Ron Jaworski, who seems to be just fine. No quarterback took more punishment than Jaworski, especially on the concrete turf of Veterans Stadium.
Sometimes the answer is that we just don’t know.
Patrick said in December that the migraine symptoms he was dealing with were different from the concussion issues he had previously, though he declined to specify.
“Just trying to put together more good days in a row than bad,” he said then.