Wes Herrmann The Hockey Writers
Hot Streaks or Breakouts for These Flyers?
Due to a bad start to 2017, followed by hard losses in early March, playoffs are no longer in the Philadelphia Flyers‘ outlook. Although not officially eliminated, the Flyers would need to win nearly all of their last 11 games and get a lot of help from other teams.
Despite no postseason to play for, the Flyers have had some players step up over the past month and into the last several games. It won’t help the team much this season, but now the question is if those hot streaks are just to end the year or are the players breaking out?
Konecny’s latest goal for the Flyers was a fluke, but an important one. The team is hoping that the rookie’s play of late, though, is no fluke.
GIF Rewind: Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny impress in late comeback win – https://t.co/bpIajlndL7 pic.twitter.com/USGvxIVsg9
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 20, 2017
Since returning from injury, Konecny has played his way from the fourth line to the second, now with Valterri Filppula and Jake Voracek. Filppula was brought in to create some more offense, but Konecny has been the one doing that so far.
The 20-year-old scored twice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 13 and three games before that he had two points against the Buffalo Sabres. Against the Carolina Hurricanes, Konecny’s late goal sent the game to overtime.
His ice time has also increased from 10 minutes in his first game back to 15 minutes and above in the last four contests. Coach Dave Hakstol is trusting Konecny and relying on his offense more and more as the season closes.
The best part is that it’s unlikely this is just a hot streak from the rookie. Konecny has improved as the season’s progressed and with 59 NHL games under his belt, he’s starting to turn the corner.
That’s good news for the Flyers, who will need Konency’s scoring next year and into the future.
Konecny’s linemate is in a much different situation. It may seem unbelievable, but this is Couturier’s sixth season in the league and he just played in his 400th NHL game.
Since his sophomore season, fans have been waiting for an offensive breakout from the center. His defensive game has always been top-notch, but if Couturier could start adding some offense, he’d be a perfect second-line center.
His last four games seem to be indicating he is just that. Couturier had three assists against the Hurricanes and potted a goal and an assist against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 15 for six points in the last four games.
It could just be a hot streak for Couturier, but there are probably some other factors working into his production.
For one, the acquisition of Filppula allowed Couturier and Brayden Schenn to reunite, a pairing that has shown offensive flashes before. Matched with Matt Read or Dale Weise, they are some of the more talented players Couturier has played with – and with less offensive pressure.
The Arizona native also suffered a knee injury in late November. His season was probably slowed down due to that and he is now getting back to his regular speed. Let’s not forget that Couturier scored 39 points in 63 games (about half-a-point per game) last year.
Staying healthy should be Couturier’s goal if he wants this streak to be more than that.
After two-thirds of an underwhelming season, Gostisbehere finally seems to be getting back to the play that turned heads all of last year. The stats haven’t been following, but the sophomore’s play has improved.
On the power play, Gostisbehere seems more confident with the puck, whether it’s making a pass or getting a shot on net (missing the net has been an issue for a large part of the season). He’s also stepping up to create turnovers more, like last season.
One of Gostisbehere’s best games of the season came against the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this month. Not incidentally, it was also Philadelphia’s biggest game of the season. It didn’t turn out in the Flyers’ favor, but the Florida native had a goal and an assist.
It’s been a slow re-building of a season for Gostisbehere, but the past two weeks may indicate he’s nearing the end of his sophomore slump.
The player with the most to prove on this list, Weal has slowed down statistically of late. He hasn’t recorded a point in the last three games, and played only nine minutes against the New Jersey Devils, Thursday.
Despite that, he’s still playing on the top line with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds and getting second power play unit minutes. With that combo, points are likely to come eventually and it worked earlier last month, when the 24-year-old scored three goals in six games and added an assist.
For Weal though, the scoring can’t come back soon enough. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and there will be a numbers game with the offense, which means he’s fighting for a contract.
History isn’t on his side either. In 14 games before this year, Weal didn’t score a single point and only had a plus-one to his name.
However, the former King has shown his worth with his speed and work along the boards this year, something any team could use more of. Like many tweeners, he needs to be in the top-six to produce, though.
The favorable usage could be the reason for his hot streak. Proving that it’s more than that in the last handful of games is crucial for Weal’s future.
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