Alain Vigneault made a fairly surprising decision prior to the showdown against the Islanders in benching Travis Konecny. The reasoning was simple – AV wanted more production in 5-on-5 from his entire team and pulling out someone as productive as TK sent a message. But did it work?
It’s no surprise that the Flyers have struggled to shoot the puck this year. They entered last night’s matchup with the NHL’s worst shot differential (-10), putting up a dismal 23.8 shots per game. What’s interesting is that coming out of it with one less game than the rest of his teammates, Travis Konecny has accounted for 13 of the teams’ 207 shots, averaging 1.4 per game. In fact, outside of Prosser’s iconic 100% record, Konecny’s 38.5% shooting percentage is by far the highest on the team.
On Thursday night, the Flyers looked offensively stale in the win against the Devils, amassing just eight shots in the opening two periods. TK failed to get a shot on target and gave the puck away twice in what was clearly a weaker game. He barely played in the final period as AV sought to set a tone. He was benched for Saturday in the hopes of continuing that. Did it work?
“As far as TK, it’s like a mother or father sometimes making tough decisions with their children.” Vigneault said after last night’s OT win. “It’s not that they don’t love their children, they’re trying to get them to do the right things. That is what I am doing with TK. I want him to play the right way. I really believe he is a real good player. I think he is in our top three forwards. Like I said before, he’s not the only one that needs to play better 5 on 5. Tonight, he sat out and I expect him when he comes back to play real strong for us and to play the right way.”
Benching an All-star who led your team in goals and points last season isn’t exactly a risk-free decision. Konecny already has 5 goals and 3 assists this season and had carried a considerable load.
What’s even more perplexing is that the team has scored the fifth-most goals on the seventh-fewest number of shots, with a 2nd ranked shooting percentage of 15%. Travis Konecny (technically) leads the team in shooting percentage, as we already established. If the shots aren’t coming but the clinical finishing clearly is, pulling out your most efficient forward seems to make little sense.
What we learned last night was what we already knew. TK is not the lone problem here. He had a sloppy night against the Devils, but the lack of shot-production goes far beyond the winger. It will be very interesting to see how the Flyers fare against the Islanders tonight with Konecny back in the lineup.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre