Hayes, Laughton Powering ‘Best Line’ for Flyers
In the first two games since returning from the pause, the line of Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton has played well overall, but it felt like there was something missing. Defensively, they remained consistent. But offensively, it felt like there was more to come. Alain Vigneault sensed it.
Just over 24 hours before his team was to take the ice for their second Round Robin game, he stated that Hayes and Konecny had another level to reach in their game. Challenge accepted.
Hayes created a turnover on the Flyers first goal and set up the other two in a 3-1 win over the Capitals on Thursday. Konecny had a pair of assists, including one no-look pass to the slot for Laughton, who supplied two goals and an assist on Travis Sanheim’s second-period goal.
From start to finish, it was total dominance.
“They’re certainly, without a doubt, our best line at this moment,” Vigneault said. “I think offensively and defensively tonight, this was their best night. Good on the forecheck, which created some real good looks and we were able to capitalize. I like that line right now, and I’m confident that it’s going to continue for us.”
That kind of statement a couple seasons ago was unheard of for the Flyers. Anything past the top line was rarely the best for the Flyers. This is starting to become consistent.
Think about it. In three games since entering the hub city of Toronto, the Flyers have one point from Sean Couturier and one point from Claude Giroux. The duo along with Jake Voracek on the top line has not recorded a point in the two games that have counted.
In years past, that kind of production would have spelled two losses for the Flyers. This year, it’s about contributions from top to bottom. Any line on any day can be the one that delivers.
“This is a team game, and in a team game you need four lines finding ways to contribute, whether it be offensively or defensively,” Vigneault said. “You’ve got three pairs of D and you need them to find ways, and you’ve got goaltending, and we got great goaltending tonight from Brian. Our D move the puck well, they were supported by our forwards coming back, and there’s no doubt that our top line at this moment might not be getting the looks that we expect them to get, but they’re three hard-working guys and they’re going to put in the time and they’re going to be effective for us moving forward.”
When you’re in the position of Couturier, who for several seasons has centered the Flyers top line and had to be along the core players that powered the offense, depth becomes important. Hayes is at the center of it, playing down the middle of a line that is starting to fire on all cylinders.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Couturier said. “He can make the difference in a game. We have different guys throughout the lineup that can make a difference on any given night, so it’s nice to have that depth. Every line just has to play the right way and not be a liability, and someone’s going to step up at the right time. It’s nice to see that line, especially these last two games really stepping up and having a huge impact for us.”
While the top line continues to work to get on the scoresheet, the trio of Hayes, Laughton and Konecny took care of business on Thursday. It was becoming a clinic with the three of them on the ice. Hayes showcasing his puck-protection skills and ability to set up teammates. Konecny being a pest on the forecheck and creating space for the others. Laughton being opportunistic and going to the net for a pair of goals.
It is becoming evident the chemistry this line has formed. It can be especially dangerous when it gets rolling as you enter a playoff series.
“We played together for a while in the regular season and I thought things were going well when we were doing that,” Hayes said. “We kind of jumped to the offense there in the regular season and our coaches told us about it. Since we got back from quarantine we’ve talked about playing with each other and playing the right way defensively. Tonight, even though we had a ton of offense, we did everything right defensively, which allowed us to do that. When you play with TK and Laughts it’s easy out there when things are going well.”
“We had a really good training camp in Philly. I think the guys are confident in each other,” Laughton said. “We have a lot of guys who work really, really hard. It’s easy to execute when you have guys moving their feet and staying over top of teams and making it hard on them. We picked up from our camp and continue to grow our game. We need to continue to do that. We’ve got to keep pushing forward here, but it’s been a good start for us and guys have definitely bought in and want to win for each other.”
The chemistry of this line, the desire and work ethic of the rest of the lineup, that has the Flyers one win away from being the team at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Last season, the idea that the Flyers could be at the top of the conference entering the playoffs was insanity. In just two days, it could be reality.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.