Flyers end season on a high-note against Blackhawks

Flyers' Felix Sandstrom
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom, right, can’t make a save a goal hit by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Thursday, April 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Philadelphia Flyers put a bow on their 2022-2023 regular season, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks on the road.

Both teams are near the bottom of the NHL standings, making them instant fodder for the ‘Connor Bedard Sweepstakes.’ Nothing changes for the Flyers; they’re locked into the seventh best odds. The Blackhawks increased their odds, but struck out on the top odds at Bedard. The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Anaheim Ducks, locking them into the odds on favorite for Bedard at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Felix Sandstrom started between the pipes for the Flyers in the final game of the season. Here’s how it all went down from the United Center:

Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks

Travis Konecny came out of the locker room ready to play. Less than thirty seconds into the period, Morgan Frost entered the offensive zone with the puck and dished to Konecny in the slot, who beat Alex Stalock at 19:34, 1-0. Then, about six minutes later, Konecny scored again. He got the puck deep into the offensive zone, stripped the puck away from Jason Dickinson, then followed up a rebound from a shot by Frost at 13:39, 2-0.

“When I came back, I was thinking I wanted to finish strong with the team, but also, that was a personal goal of mine. Credit to the guys I played with all year. A lot of the goals, if you go back, are just planted in an empty net; that’s always credit to your teammates. It was nice.”

Travis Konecny; 4/13/2023

About a minute later, Jujhar Khaira got the Chicago Blackhawks onto the scoreboard. After winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, Wyatt Kaiser swung the puck across the blue line to Connor Murphy, and his shot deflected off Nick Seeler. Khaira made a quick attempt with the puck and converted at 12:32 , 2-1.

After allowing back-to-back goals by Konecny, the Blackhawks answered with a pair of goals. Andreas Athanasiou took a sharp angled shot, setting up the rebound goal by Anders Bjork at 10:40, 2-2.

Both goaltenders were being tested in the first period. Khaira had another chance for a second goal of the period, but Sandstrom made the save. He dived on a shot by Tyler Johnson to keep the puck out of the net. Stalock made a save on a good wraparound attempt by Kevin Hayes before the period expired.

Twice in as many periods, the Philadelphia Flyers began with a goal in the first minute. Stalock passed from behind the net to Seth Jones, who attempted a chip pass to Khaira. Owen Tippett intercepted, scoring on an open net at 19:14, 3-2.

Digging themselves into a hole, the Blackhawks put the Flyers on the powerplay after losing momentum early in the second period. Kaiser went to the penalty box, serving a two-minute minor for delaying the game. Noah Cates converted the man advantage. Tippett slid a quick pass to Konecny along the goal line extended, who found Cates centered at the hashmarks for the one-timer goal at 15:38, 4-2.

Unfortunately, the Flyers gave the Blackhawks their powerplay chance, serving a two-minute minor for holding. Athanasiou gave the puck enough touch through the slot where Jonathan Toews could redirect the puck past Sandstrom to convert on the powerplay at 12:20, 4-3.

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Chicago, Thursday, April 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Both teams finished 1/1 on the powerplay and 0/1 on the penalty kill.

Neither team committed a penalty in the third period to give the opposition an advantage. Stalock made a save on Konecny driving down the left-wing. Athanasiou and Joey Anderson both were denied by Sandstrom. Tippett created a stellar scoring opportunity off the rebound from the shot by Anderson, flipping the puck through the air in front of James van Riemsdyk down the ice in the offensive zone, but Stalock made another crucial save.

Luke Richardson pulled Stalock for the extra skater. Sandstrom made a save in traffic, but Athanasiou scored the rebound at 2:00, 4-4. The regular season didn’t finish in regulation. In Chicago, the season finale called for overtime theatrics!

Toews had the chance to win the game for the Blackhawks on a breakaway against Sandstrom, but the goaltender stood his ground. Konecny took the puck in the neutral zone, dishing back to Ivan Provorov who raced into the offensive zone, juking Jones and Stalock on the same toe-drag, for the crafty game-winner at 1:51, 5-4.

30 for Konecny (+)

For the first time in his career, Konecny surpassed the thirty goal threshold.

Previously, the closest Konecny came to scoring thirty goals was his trio of 24 goal seasons from 2017-2020. He tied his high in even-strength goals (23,) powerplay goals (5,) and scored three shorthanded goals in his first season on the penalty kill. Darryl Williams said this about the way Konecny plays:

“He just plays hard every night. If you play hard every night and you do little things every night, you’re going to get those opportunities. He’s a hard guy to play against; he plays on the inside, he plays in the areas where goals are scored. He also has that ability to break something off a rush, or make a skilled play where he can get in, so he’s a dangerous player every time he’s on the ice. He plays on the right side of the puck, too. When you play on the right side of the puck, you’re going to get those opportunities because you’re in good position.”

Darryl Williams; 4/13/2023

It sounds like the evolution of Konecny becoming a good two-hundred-foot player helped boost his goal scoring production. He broke out under Tortorella, but the prioritizing of becoming an effective two-hundred-foot forward, particularly in the case of Konecny, began with Alain Vigneault.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)