Flyers 5, Blackhawks 4: Travis Konecny shines as Justin Braun likely plays final game
It's over. It's finally over.
The 2022-23 campaign has been nothing short of an absolute disaster for the Philadelphia Flyers. From lengthy losing streaks and crushing season-ending injuries to headline-stealing benchings and spears to the groin, the last six months have been an absolute rollercoaster ride from Hell for the Orange & Black.
Mercifully, the Flyers' nightmare campaign officially came to a close Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center, but they ended the season on a high note, taking down the 'Hawks by a score of 5-4 in overtime. Ivan Provorov scored a gorgeous highlight-reel goal to earn the Flyers their 31st win of the season.
Travis Konecny entered the night one goal shy of reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. So what did he do? He scored twice. And he logged a pair of assists. Because of course he did. His first tally came just 26 seconds into the game, and his second came not even five minutes later.
"He wanted that one. Before the game he was telling me to dish it to him, so it's kind of funny how it worked out on the first shift," said Morgan Frost, who registered primary helpers on both of Konecny's goals.
Konecny has been nothing short of phenomenal this season, leading the Flyers in goals and points. He averaged a point per game for the first time in his seven years as an NHLer, and had he not missed a quarter of the season due to injuries, it's possible he may have been awarded team MVP over Carter Hart, who, in his own right, was also spectacular this campaign.
Speaking of which, Hart did not get the start in the season finale. Instead, Felix Sandstrom guarded the cage, earning his third win as an NHL netminder in the process. He stopped 34 shots in the outing.
Prior to puck drop, much of the attention nationally was directed to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who was playing his final game as a member of the club. He even scored a goal in the game to make the sendoff that much more memorable for fans in attendance. But Flyers defenseman Justin Braun was also playing his last game – likely ever. Braun, 36, took a solo lap during warmups, which usually serves as an indicator that a player is lacing up the skates for the final time.
Braun, who was given the Yanick Dupre Award in the Flyers' home finale, was sitting at 199 career points entering the season finale. To help him reach the 200-point mark, the Flyers had him line up on the power play to up his chances at hitting the milestone. Unfortunately, he was unable to register a point even with the additional ice time on the man advantage.
Still, it was a heck of a night for the veteran blueliner, who has been nothing but a pro's pro since joining the Flyers in 2019. And with 842 games under his belt, it's been a heck of a career for the Minnesota native.
"Every guy I've played with, it's been an absolute honor," an emotional Braun said after the game.
"It's a tough day, but it was a great run."
Meanwhile, Owen Tippett put together another strong performance to end the season. After scoring a pair of markers Tuesday night, Tippett netted his 27th goal of the season off an ugly turnover from Seth Jones to break a 2-2 tie in the middle period.
Tippett finishes the season with career highs in every major statistical category – goals (27), assists (22), and points (49). This goes without saying at this point, but the 24-year-old clearly has a very bright future in Philadelphia.
With this win, the Flyers finish the season with a 31-38-13 record. They will have the seventh-best odds – a 6.5% chance – at winning the May 8 draft lottery.
There's no way around it. The 2022-23 season is likely to go down as one of the very worst in franchise history. From the fans to the players and coaches, no one with ties to the Flyers is entering the offseason without a sour, disgusting taste in their mouth. But a win on the road? In Chicago? In Toews' final game as a Blackhawk? There are worse ways to end a campaign.
It hasn't been fun. In fact, it's largely been agonizing watching the Flyers play hockey this season. But at long last, this horrifying expedition has come to an end. And for the first time in a long time, there is reason for hope.
The Flyers have already made multiple significant changes during the season, and more changes are expected to come this summer. It's impossible to tell when the Flyers will be playing competitive hockey again. Frankly, it may be several years before they return to the postseason. But the start of a new era in Flyers history officially begins now.
Without knowing where the new road leads, it's at least something to look forward to.