As Travis Konecny waited out the entire offseason before inking his new contract, signaling his first real payday in the NHL, there was ample time for self-reflection.
"I thought a lot this summer about who I am as a player," Konecny said last week.
The 22-year-old was coming off back-to-back 24-goal seasons and looked poised for a significant leap in 2019-20, especially after signing a six-year, $33 million deal.
Konecny wasn't daydreaming about lofty goals or inflated production.
"I really wanted to do what was best for the team and every single night focus on two points," he said. "Individual stats kind of come with that, when you're playing an all-around game for the team. I'm not saying I play an all-around game every single night. I try to do my best to help the team. Some nights are better than the others, but I think that's been my main focus - really trying to give my best effort every night and be able to go home saying that I tried to do my part."
On Sunday night, Konecny played more than just a mere part. This was a stage for stars, a game at TD Garden against a team with three Stanley Cup Final appearances and a title over the past nine seasons. Names like David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara were featured in the Bruins' lineup, opposing Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and the Flyers.
And Konecny was a star.
He has been one this season for the Flyers, who are off to their best start since 2011-12, when the team last eclipsed 100 points and won a playoff series.
In just over a four-minute span Sunday, Konecny seized control of TD Garden with a goal and primary assist, handing the Flyers a surprising 2-0 lead during the first period. He finished with two points and a plus-2 mark as the Flyers took down the home-dominant Bruins, 3-2, in a shootout (see observations).
Both the mighty Pastrnak and the four-time Selke Trophy award winner Bergeron went scoreless, while Marchand potted a goal.
The Flyers didn't receive big-time numbers from their household guys as Giroux and Voracek failed to crack the score sheet. James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes also went without a point.
But Konecny has made those types of games OK and winnable for the Flyers, even when facing a Bruins group that was 7-0-1 at home and among the NHL's top-five teams in points, goals per game and fewest goals allowed per game.
Last season, the Flyers were 10-19-2 when Giroux went scoreless and 10-19-2 when Voracek went scoreless. This season, they already have five wins when Giroux has gone scoreless and seven wins when Voracek has gone scoreless.
Sure, Konecny has put up his fair share of points with a team-leading 19 (eight goals, 11 assists) to push the Flyers to a 10-5-2 record through 17 games.
Most importantly, though, he has stuck to what he thought about this summer - consistently doing what is best for his team every single night.
Right now, that's playing like a star.
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