PHILADELPHIA – He might be tied for second in goals scored by NHL players, but that’s not enough to prevent him from feeling coach Alain Vigneault’s wrath.
Travis Konecny “hit the pine’’ for Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
Despite posting five goals in nine games, Konecny hasn’t played well enough in even-strength situations to satisfy Vigneault.
“I believe that TK is one of our top three forwards,’’ Vigneault said during a late Saturday afternoon media Zoom call from the Wells Fargo Center. “(He) has tremendous potential, is doing some things right like going to the net, stopping and scoring a couple big goals for us.
“But I also believe right now our five-on-five play is not where it needs to be. And I’ve been talking to the players about it for some time. . .areas that I believe we need to be better at.’’
Konecny has scored 24 goals in each of the last three seasons and was the team’s leading scorer in the 2019-20 season. However, he went goal-less in 16 postseason games.
To his credit, he registered a hat trick in a win over Pittsburgh and a few days later scored the winning goal in a 3-0 victory over Buffalo. He’s also a plus-5.
“TK is the one who’s not going to play tonight,’’ Vigneault said. “His five-on-five game needs to be better. He’s aware. I had a good conversation with him this morning and I expect him the next time he’s back in the lineup to play the right way.’’
Taking Konecny’s place is left wing Samuel Morin, who was scheduled his season debut after recovering from his second ACL surgery last year.
Morin was penciled in to play with center Scott Laughton and winger Joel Farabee.
While the Flyers were 5-2-1 going into Saturday’s game, Vigneault sounded more like a coach whose team was 2-5-1.
“I’ve addressed this basically after game,’’ Vigneault said. “We need to play the right way. I came here to Philly to win a Stanley Cup and to win a Stanley Cup there’s a certain way you have to play.
“There are certain decisions you need to make with and without the puck. That’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m going to get out of this group.’’
Morin provides a more physical element.
“I was hoping we would be able to get Sam into a (preseason) game (with the Phantoms),’’ Vigneault said. “He was scheduled to play yesterday but that game was canceled because of COVID.
“I thought he’d get an opportunity to play a game or two in the American Hockey League prior to playing a game in the NHL. The Islanders are a bigger, more physical team. If you’re going to try Sam at that position (he switched to left wing from defense this season), this is going to be one of those games you could use a guy who’s hard on the forecheck. He’s worked real hard, he deserves this opportunity.’’
Defenseman Phil Myers, out four games with a rib cartilage injury, returned to the lineup and was reunited with his familiar partner Travis Sanheim.
“They (the doctors) say it can’t get worse,’’ Myers said. “I feel good out there, I’m shooting as hard as I can. I was involved in some battles (in practice) over the last couple days. I’m fired up to be back.’’
>Gustafsson looks for improvement
After getting scratched in the first New Jersey game, Erik Gustafsson came back with a strong effort in the 3-1 win over New Jersey on Thursday.
“I haven’t done anything good on the ice so far,’’ he said. “I have to be better with the puck and be strong in front of our own net. I don’t think I’ve shown the coaches yet what I can do.
“I have to be better, that’s the bottom line.’’
Gustafsson was paired with veteran Justin Braun for the Saturday night game.
“He’s a great defenseman,’’ Gustafsson said. “Great guy in the locker room. It’s fun to play with him.’’
In addition to the Konecny scratch and addition of Morin, Vigneault shuffled his other lines.
Nolan Patrick centered Claude Giroux and Oskar Lindblom.
Kevin Hayes centered James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom.