Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers: GAME# 49
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast/Streaming: SN1, NBCSP, SUN
Opponent SBNation Site: Broad Street Hockey
Five Questions with Kelly Hinkle, Associate Editor of Broad Street Hockey
Raw Charge: Travis Konecny is hot right now, with two game-winning-goals in a row. What about his play is different than it has been, and how has he surprised you?
Kelly: To be honest, I’m not sure there is anything about how Travis Konecny plays that has changed. What has changed is how he’s being used. To start the season, Konecny bounced around between the third and fourth lines, often playing on lines with guys like Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise. Once Dave Hakstol decided to break up the top line of Giroux, Voracek, and Couturier and give Konecny a shot with this team’s best offensive players, his game really opened up. You play talented players with other talented players and things get fun. I am pretty surprised he was able to score two game-winning OT goals in a row exactly 27 seconds into the extra period. That’s impressive.
Raw Charge: Flyers had a ten-game losing streak earlier in the season, but have gone 16-5-1 since then. What went into this sea change for the team? What differences are there in coaching or personnel?
Kelly: The team seemed to have a come to Jesus moment at the end of that losing streak --closed-door meetings, having beers together, that kind of stuff—and I think that kind of stuff always helps. A lot of things have to go wrong for a team to hit a losing streak that long, and at some point the players themselves need to decide they’re going to fight through it, and that seems to be what happened.
As far as coaching and personnel goes, Dave Hakstol did make some good choices, like moving Konecny up as mentioned above. Additionally, the team got back to playing the kind of hockey that lead to the success they started the season with. Rather than relying on perimeter shots, they started getting down low again, getting more shots from high-danger areas and scoring more goals.
When you’re dealing with a coaching staff like this one, that opens itself up to a whole lot of warranted criticism with bad decision making, I think it’s important to acknowledge when they get things right. Moving Voracek to the second line to balance scoring, moving Konecny to the Couturier line and allowing him time to find chemistry with Coots and Giroux, finally putting together a Ghost-Provorov pairing…these are all really good things that Dave Hakstol has done recently that have yielded positive result.
I also want to take a sec to acknowledge the play of Brian Elliott, who was not only good during the losing streak, but continued to play really well as they came out of it, and is a very big reason why this team is winning games.
Raw Charge: The last time Tampa beat the Flyers was on November 23, 2016. Since then, Flyers have beat the team fairly consistently. What players and strategies go into slowing down one of the faster teams in the league?
Kelly: I think it’s a couple of things. First, we have Sean Couturier to do one of the best shut-down jobs in the league on your most talented forwards. Secondly, if I’m remembering correctly, I think the Flyers have deployed some version of the trap during games against the Lightning this season, which is really the only chance you have to slow down a team that fast. And if we’re being real, the Flyers, for whatever reason, seem to have great puck luck against the Bolts. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it.
Raw Charge: With the Flyers back in playoff contention, what moves do you think Hextall makes at trade deadline this year? What issues need to be addressed for a healthy playoff run?
Kelly: I don’t think Hextall makes any moves at all. I honestly don’t think he would’ve made any moves regardless of the situation. If this team is going to try and make a run, the coaching staff really needs to work on icing the best lineup possible in all situations. Things like Jori Lehtera and Brandon Manning as mainstays on your power play, icing a guy like Tyrell Goulbourne only to play him 4 minutes a night…it just won’t cut it in the playoffs. And I’m honestly not sure Dave Hakstol will make the adjustments needed to get this team out of the first round.
Raw Charge: On another topic entirely, what do you think the name of the Seattle NHL team should be?
Kelly: Okay so I know the most fun choice is the Seattle Kraken. It’s pretty badass and I bet the logo would be super cool. But I kind of love Firebirds. If I were picking, that’s where I’d go.
Raw Charge: Thanks so much, Kelly!
Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris Kunitz - Steven Stamkos - Vladislav Namestnikov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Yanni Gourde - Matthew Peca - Alex Killorn
Michael Bournival - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Anton Stralman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Weise - Valtteri Filppula - Michael Raffl
Jordan Weal - Nolan Patrick - Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne - Scott Laughton - Jori Lehtera
Ivan Provorov - Shayne “Ghost Bear” Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg - Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas