The Philadelphia Flyers may have found a new line combination on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
After a disappointing effort against the Sabres on Monday night, Alain Vigneault made a few “subtle” changes to the line combinations and defensive pairs for Tuesday night’s game. Well, those changes turned out to be not all that subtle. The only group that remained intact was the Flyers’ fourth line as all three top-nine lines and defensive pairs were shaken up.
One of the lines that was put together features three of the most exciting young players on the team: Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, and Travis Konecny.
After Sean Couturier’s unfortunate injury, but it was Morgan Frost who got the first crack at it. Frost didn’t play particularly poorly, but Vigneault just wanted a new look. Well, he got quite the look.
The Lindblom - Patrick - Konecny line was the Flyers’ best line on the night. They played the most minutes as a line – partially due to Frost leaving the game early – and were effective in all three zones.
Before the season, Konecny was penciled in as a top-line winger, or top-six winger at the very least for the Flyers. But no one knew if Nolan Patrick was healthy or if he’d be in any sort of playing shape. We knew Lindblom was mostly ready to go after returning for a few playoff games but didn’t know to what extent he’d be effective
Well, it’s still early on in the season, but those questions have been answered with authority. Lindblom and Patrick each have three points in four games and have been two of the more consistent forwards on the roster. That continued on Tuesday night.
Konecny’s goal – and the passes by Patrick and Lindblom leading to it – was the clear highlight of the night. However, there was plenty more to like from this trio.
I rewatched all of their shifts and was surprised by how much the positives outweighed the negatives, even without the goal. Let’s get into it.
The line was putting pucks on net and getting to the dirty areas from their very first shift. Patrick won the faceoff back to Lindblom, who fired it on net with Konecny crashing.
Carter Hutton paddled the puck away, but it was a sign of things to come for the trio.
All three members of the line were active in the forecheck and backcheck all night long. Here they were all in the offensive zone pressuring the puck before getting back, where Konecny was able to control the puck and get things going the other way.
Konecny then sent a pass to Lindblom, who had a clean zone entry. Unfortunately, his centering pass deflected into the corner.
They kept at it, though, and Patrick won a battle in the corner. He got it to Lindblom, who fed Konecny at the top of the circle. Konecny made a nice move then took a shot that went wide, but Hagg was able to send it across to Gustafsson for a one-timer.
It was a very effective shift for the line early in the first period.
They got in on the forecheck on their next shift but were unable to get possession of the puck.
However, they got back into their zone and Lindblom drew a penalty in the slot.
They seemed to always put pressure on the Sabres defensemen, forcing them to reset or make ill-advised plays with the puck. That happened a bit here, but the puck bounced off of a Flyer to cancel out the icing.
Patrick lost a defensive zone faceoff in the latter stages of the period, but Lindblom was there to support along the wall and take the puck.
Lindblom quickly got the puck to Konecny, who angled the puck off the boards in the corner. Lindblom was racing towards the puck and got off a one-timer with Patrick just missing the rebound.
Plays like those show how quickly this line can go from defending to attacking.
In the final minute of the period, Patrick made a good defensive play to stop a rush and poke the puck loose to Konecny.
That was it for the first period; a lackluster period in terms of overall team play, but a good start for this line.
The line went right back to work in the second period. The Flyers had the two closest skaters to the puck after a dump in and nearly forced a turnover from Hutton.
Konecny may have gotten away with a hooking penalty, but the Flyers got possession of the puck and sent it back to the point.
Travis Sanheim sent it along the wall to Konecny, who made a nifty pass to Patrick.
If this line had a few more games under their belt and their timing down, that could’ve been a pretty play. Instead, Patrick just missed the pass but won a battle to retain possession.
Off an offensive zone draw – and what seemed to be a set play – Konecny helped Patrick win the faceoff and got the puck back to the point. Konecny received the pass in the circle and fired a shot on net with Patrick in front.
Once again, nothing came of it, but it was a good little play to see.
It seemed like the line did something positive on every shift. Here, Patrick picked off a pass in the neutral zone to create something out of nothing.
That’s another play that could turn into something more with better timing and chemistry down the line. Lindblom’s pass headed up the boards, however, and the Sabres went up the ice.
Justin Braun stepped up to force the Sabres back to the neutral zone, where the Flyers won a battle for a two-on-one with Patrick and Konecny.
Patrick got a shot on and created a rebound, but it bounced wide.
Okay, enough of the just-misses. Let’s get to the goal.
It actually all started with one of Patrick’s worst plays of the night. He turned the puck over as he tried to stickhandle out of the zone.
However, he recovered nicely, took down Curtis Lazar, and chipped a backhand pass up the wall to Lindblom. There, Lindblom turned and fired a bank pass to a wide-open Konecny racing down the ice. And you know the rest.
Konecny’s breakaway move was the perfect way to cap off a great passing play by Patrick and Lindblom. The trio had been able to make some nice passes in the neutral zone earlier in the game. This one stepped it up a notch and finally paid off.
That got the Flyers on the board and gave them a 1-0 lead after two periods of play.
Things didn’t change in the third period. They kept getting in on the forecheck and creating pressure.
Here, Lindblom forced a quick dump off the glass by the goalie (that Patrick may have gotten a piece of?) that was kept in at the line by Sanheim. Sanheim deked a Sabre out of his skates before attempting a give-and-go with Lindblom.
Lindblom showed off some of his skill on the backcheck as well, lifting Victor Olofsson’s stick and stealing the puck to start a rush the other way.
Patrick was unable to keep the puck in at the line, but he waited for Konecny to get onside and bodied Jeff Skinner to the ice.
He then, of course, got the puck in deep.
After a chance by the Sabres, Lindblom found some space in the defensive zone and opened himself up for a pass. He then sent the puck up ice.
This time it was Patrick who used the boards on a pass, and Lindblom fired the puck toward the net from behind the goal line.
It trickled in front and Patrick would’ve converted had it not been for Jonas Johansson barely getting a piece of it.
Patrick’s stickhandling and subsequent turnover ultimately led to Konecny’s goal, but he knew to make the smart play and flip the puck out of the zone with a one-goal lead in the third period.
Despite an extended shift due to an icing, Patrick was able to show Eric Staal some of his strength in the corner.
Here’s another quick passing sequence by these three later in the period.
Konecny’s pass was just a bit too long, but Lindblom got there any way to force a board battle. The Sabres won that battle, but Konecny was in position to have their clearing attempt bounce off him and back into the corner.
Lindblom and Konecny went back to work on the forecheck at the end of their shift to force the Sabres to reset and kill more time off the clock.
The line was even trusted to be out there with the empty net. Patrick stick lifted Rasmus Dahlin and got the puck to Konecny, who was hooked down in the corner.
There was no call, but they nearly iced the game and were able to keep the Sabres in their own end.
The Lindblom - Patrick - Konecny line played 10:51 together at 5-on-5. They created 10 shot attempts to the Sabres’ 12, a 45.45 Corsi-For Percentage, which was nearly five points higher than the Flyers’ 40.63 CF%. They were sheltered a bit in terms of deployment, but Patrick played 3:42 against Jack Eichel and 3:07 against Eric Staal, the Sabres’ top two centers.
There are a few kinks for the line to work out, as there are for any line this early in the season, but there was more good than bad from the trio against the Sabres.
This Lindblom - Patrick - Konecny line has the potential to be a force. They are all still growing their games and can develop some chemistry together. They seem to have a lot of fun playing together and their styles mesh well.
It was only one game – hell, it was 10 minutes –, but there was plenty to like from this line on Tuesday night.