Flyers' focus for 2014-15: Consistency

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Flyers' focus for 2014-15: Consistency

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s not a big, goal-scoring winger. It’s not a tough defenseman. It’s definitely not a top-rate goaltender.

In order to make it past the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers believe all they need is a little more consistency. 

“I don’t think we played too many full 60-minute hockey games in the playoffs,” Brayden Schenn said. “When you’re not playing 60 minutes in the playoffs, you’re not going to win.” 

Of the seven postseason games they played against the New York Rangers, the Flyers came closest to a consistent, 60-minute effort only in Game 6 a week ago at the Wells Fargo Center. But even that game started off with about five minutes of the Flyers running around in their own zone.

The series was, in a way, a microcosm of their season as a whole. When they played well -- like most of Game 6 -- they were practically unstoppable. When they played poorly, they played very poorly, no matter their opponent. But all along the way, they struggled to put in those elusive complete-game efforts.

That tendency to inexplicably stop executing for a period or so hurt them most when it mattered most -- Game 7. In the second period, they gave up the only two goals the Rangers needed to win the game and move on to the next round.

They know they were guilty of it, and they paid the price.

“I just think we tend to get away from our game too often,” Steve Mason said. “We can play 20 minutes, 40 minutes of unbelievable hockey and completely control our game, but we tend to get away from that a period at a time. Come playoffs, if you’re not going to gather a full 60 minutes, that’s what’s going to cost you. 

“I think in our first-round series, I don’t think there was a complete effort for a full 60 minutes, and that’s a frustrating point too, because we were one game left from coming away from that series and going to the next round. It’s disappointing to feel that we didn’t have a complete game throughout the whole series.”

Of course, the consistency issue isn’t just pertinent to the playoffs. The Flyers’ season as a whole was marked by inconsistency right from the beginning -- both on a game-by-game basis as well as overall. And not just a game or a period here and there; they were wildly inconsistent, beating the St. Louis Blues one week and struggling to keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs another.

Had they been just a bit more dependable during the season, they could have had home-ice advantage over the Rangers, who finished just two points ahead of them in the standings. 

“I think in the regular season we’ve got to be more consistent,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “I think from maybe the West Coast trip right before the [Olympic] break until the end, we played some pretty good hockey.

“… You don’t want to lose out in the first round, but Game 7s can go either way. We have to learn from it and players who have never been in that position grow from it, and get better as a team for next year.”

The Flyers believe their roster already looks good on paper (see story). There aren't any major missing pieces -- it wasn't a specific type of player or role player that kept them from advancing past the Rangers.

And looking ahead to 2015, that's what they plan to build on.

“We’ve just got to worry about how we play our game,” Claude Giroux said. “I think we did a lot of good things this year that we see what kind of team we are. 

“We have a lot of character in this room, and there’s a lot of positive.”

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

OTTAWA, Ontario — Exactly one year ago, Dec. 1, 2015, Travis Konecny was a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

He had just learned that he had been invited to the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship and he was at the Canadian Tire Centre spending time with future Flyers teammates during the morning skate as they prepared for a game that night against the Ottawa Senators.

Fast forward one year to today, Dec. 1, 2016, and Konecny is back at the CTC, this time to face the Senators alongside his current Flyers teammates as a key part of the team’s offense.

Quite a step forward in just one calendar year for a kid not named Crosby or McDavid.

“It’s crazy how fast it happened and I’m definitely humbled I was given the opportunity. They believed enough in me to make the jump this year and it definitely hits me every day that I get the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Konecny, who has scored four times and added nine assists through the first 25 games of his NHL career. He has also added a team-leading 33 penalty minutes and that goes a long way in explaining the type of game he plays.

“I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been like that before," Konecny said before the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win Thursday (see game story). "When you’re playing in the NHL, some guys will run over you all game if they can so I think part of these penalties I’m taking is me just having to step up and I’m just setting an example of sticking up for my teammates."

It wasn’t until his second game in the league that he took his first penalty, but he was on the score sheet before that having collected two assists in his debut Oct. 14 in a 4-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.

His first goal came Oct. 25 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The key for his success in making the jump from junior to the NHL is simple.

“Just keeping things simple," he said. "Learning in the NHL is about reading off mistakes. You can’t always make a play, you have to be smart and make sure you’re doing what’s right for the team and I think just keeping my game simple is what got me here." 

There is one main difference between the two levels, Konecny added.

“The speed, and I don’t necessarily mean just skating," he said. "Thinking wise and how fast plays happen. Guys like [Senators defenseman Erik] Karlsson, he’s thinking so fast and he knows his play two or three steps before the next guy does, so you just have to try and outthink guys and to me that’s been the biggest jump.”

Konecny is not foreign to the Senators’ home ice surface. He spent part of his time in junior playing there while the 67’s home arena was being renovated.

He had to leave several passes for friends and family for the game Tuesday night, his first as a pro in the city that was dazzled by his play in junior for 2½ seasons.

“It was a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories," Konecny said after going scoreless in 14:13 of ice time. "We didn’t play in front of as many fans as we did tonight but definitely a lot of games played here and a lot of fond memories.

“Even flying in [Wednesday] was something special and driving around the city looking at the roots where I was for three years.”

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

Best of NHL: Hossa gives Blackhawks OT win over Devils

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa scored his team-leading 12th goal through a screen at 1:31 of overtime to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

Hossa's shot through traffic from high in the slot beat Cory Schneider on the glove side, moments after New Jersey's Mike Cammalleri hit the post on a prime chance against Chicago's Corey Crawford.

New Jersey's Travis Zajac scored his third goal of the game at 8:49 of the third to tie it 3-all after scores by Chicago's Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson late in the second period had put the Blackhawks ahead.

Marcus Kruger also connected for Western Conference-leading Chicago to end a 22-game drought as the Blackhawks won their second straight and played beyond regulation for third consecutive time. They are 3-0-1 in their last four.

The Devils have dropped four straight (0-2-2) (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins run away from Stars
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby broke the game's final tie and assisted on another score in the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Dallas Stars 6-2 on Thursday night.

Crosby scored his league-leading 16th goal in the second period and assisted on Conor Sheary's sixth as Pittsburgh scored three goals in the final 4 minutes. Eric Fehr's third of the season was the 100th of his career and Patric Hornqvist's seventh came on the power play. Nick Bonino and Ian Cole both scored their third for Pittsburgh, which avoided consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves for Pittsburgh. Fleury, who won for the first time in five starts, has six wins in his last nine home games.

Tyler Seguin scored his eighth and Devin Shore his second for the Stars, who continue to struggle on the road. Dallas has lost its previous five away from home and has three wins in 14 road games this season. The Stars have lost three straight and seven of their last 10.

Antti Niemi , playing in his 400th career game, stopped 34 shots (see full recap).

Eichel helps Sabres knock off Rangers
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals in the third period, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight victory.

Buffalo's winning streak coincides with the return of Eichel, who missed the first 21 games with a high ankle sprain. The 20-year-old center had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's 5-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday and has recorded a point in seven straight games dating to last season.

In his first home game of the season, Eichel scored on a power play with 7:15 remaining and netted the winning goal 1:43 later. Buffalo is now 10-3-1 when Eichel has more than one point (see full recap).