If the Flyers are to start getting back into playoff contention next season, young players such as Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett and Noah Cates have to figure prominently in the turnaround.
In Thursday night’s 5-4 overtime win over the Blackhawks in Chicago’s United Center, the three players showed why they will be counted on to lead the offense in the 2023-24 campaign.
Konecny scored twice and Tippett and Cates added goals as the Flyers closed out their season with back-to-back victories after a seven-game winless streak.
Ivan Provorov scored on a highlight-reel play with 1:51 left in overtime for the winning goal.
Philadelphia finishes the season with a record of 31-38-13, missing the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
The two goals give Konecny 31 for the season. He also registered an assist giving him 60 points to tie his career high.
Tippett reached the 27-goal mark and affirmed why the Flyers are so excited about his future in Philadelphia.
Two players – James van Riemsdyk and Justin Braun – most likely played their final games in Flyers uniforms. Both are pending unrestricted free agents. JVR has indicated he will continue to play in the NHL while Braun might be calling it a career.
Goaltender Felix Sandstrom, filling in for Carter Hart, recorded the win.
Konecny scored consecutive goals in the first period for a 2-0 Flyers lead.
He posted his first just 26 seconds into the game and added a second at 6:21. Morgan Frost picked up assists on both goals.
“We definitely wanted to come out of there with the win,” Frost said. “Pretty sloppy game for both teams. But a win is a win and we’re happy.”
As for Konecny, Frost has been impressed with his skill level.
“He’s been probably our best player,” Frost said. “I love playing with him. He’s one of my good buddies off the ice. That’s 30 goals and he missed games. He wanted that one. It’s kind of funny how it worked out on the first shift. Unbelievable season for him.”
Chicago quickly answered with goals from Jujhar Khaira (7:28) and Anders Bjork (9:20).
Tippett made an exceptional play to put the Flyers back in front. He knocked down a Seth Jones clear attempt and fired the puck into an open net at the 46-second mark of the second period.
Cates scored on a power play with a shot past goalie Alex Stalock at 4:37 to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead. However, veteran captain Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks. With Nick Seeler in the penalty box, Toews tipped in a shot. Then the Blackhawks tied it with two minutes to play after pulling Stalock.
The Blackhawks announced earlier in the day that they do not plan to re-sign Toews the captain of three Stanley Cup-winning teams.
The United Center was jumping because of the situation surrounding Toews. Frost said the Flyers did a good job to stay focused.
“There was a ton of energy in the building,” Frost said. “It was loud. We just tried to feed off that. We found a way to win it.”
Cates put together a strong rookie season and had a big role on the team after center Sean Couturier went down for the season due to back surgery. He will finish sixth in scoring among NHL rookies.
“I just wanted to work hard and make a good impression,” said Cates, who finished with 13 goals. “Playing in all 82 games was special. Some good opportunities I’ll take into next year.”
The Flyers finished in seventh position for the NHL draft lottery. They have an outside chance of getting the first or second pick and also could pick either seventh, eighth or ninth.
The Flyers will conduct their exit interviews on Friday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. Coach John Tortorella and interim general manager Daniel Briere will address the media on Monday at the FTC. . .Assistant coach Darryl Williams was given head coaching duties by Tortorella for this game.