Travis Konecny found himself where no player ever wants to be: watching his teammates on the ice from up in the press box.
Designated as a healthy scratch on Dec. 30 due to a lack of goal scoring, Konecny could only sit and watch the game with San Jose and mentally prepare himself for whenever he got back out there. His absence wouldn’t extend past the one game, though, as the rookie found himself in the lineup the following contest.
Since that brief demotion, Konecny has been one of the team’s better forwards.
“I came back from Christmas break with a shooting mentality and a positive outlook, just make sure I get pucks on net,” Konecny said after the 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday. “If you’re not shooting you’re not gonna score, that’s just the way it is and my teammates have been putting me in good opportunities.”
In four games since his benching, the 19-year-old has a pair of goals. Prior to that, he hadn’t scored in 22 consecutive games. That is why head coach Dave Hakstol opted to remove him from the lineup and let him take a night off to regain himself the same way as Shayne Gostisbehere and Michael Raffl did following their surprise benchings.
Amidst the lineup shuffling, the biggest change as of late has been the reunion of the Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier and Konecny line, the same trio that began the season and continued on as the team’s most productive line through the early going. Before the weekend back-to-back, Hakstol decided to go back to his original line while mixing and matching the other three pairings.
It’s a move that paid off in a weekend that saw the Flyers take three out of a possible four points.
“We know how to play with each other,” Konecny said. “We had about 20 games or so playing with each other and we create good offense. I’ve been saying all along we support each other, we complement each other really well and I think it’s just a little change up that happens in hockey and it worked for us.”
It’s been nothing short of a true rookie season for Konecny in that there have been plenty of ups-and-downs with nothing coming easy for him. There’s still some doubt as to whether he’s being utilized to his full potential, particularly in the speed-oriented 3-on-3 overtime where has only played a total of 4:14 compared to forwards like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who has seen 8:40 of ice time.
Yet, Konecny remains in the top 10 in a loaded rookie class in scoring with 20 points on six goals and 14 assists.
Just as the thinking was when Hakstol removed him from the lineup, the Flyers are hoping that the second half of the season for Konecny sees him making even more plays than he had in an up-and-down first half.