Injuries at inconvenient times
Brian Flynn believes he could have been centering the third line by season's end if he hadn't gotten hurtby Joanie Godin, translated by Dan Braverman @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com
MONTREAL -- There's never a good time for a professional athlete to get injured, but some injuries come at worse times than others -- something Brian Flynn came to understand all too well in 2016-17.
Flynn's season was a mix of highs and lows, just as it was for his team. In November, Flynn had to sit out nine games due to an upper-body injury, and was a healthy scratch for three of five games in the lead-up to to the mid-season coaching change.
He made his way back into the lineup for the first three outings of Claude Julien's return behind the bench, but missed the next five. After returning, Flynn endured an upper-body injury from a hard Alex Biega hit on March 7 in Vancouver. That injury hit Flynn the hardest, given that it happened during the sprint to the finish of the regular season and with the playoffs fast approaching.
"It was really bad timing, because I lost all my momentum before the playoffs. It was also hard because I had only played a few games under Claude. He was in the process of evaluating everything he had on hand, and my injury forced me to miss a month," recounted Flynn, who finished the season with six goals and four assists for 10 points in 51 games. "When I returned so close to the playoffs, it wasn't such an obvious thing for him to put me in the lineup and have confidence in me, without having really seen me play.
"I think that if that didn't happen, I would've had more of an opportunity to play later on in the season and center the third line. And if I did well enough, then maybe I would've started the playoffs. But the coach found himself in a situation where he was probably thinking of going with the more experienced guys for the fourth line," continued the 28-year-old forward. "I understand it, that's how the business works. Timing is really important and that injury came at the worst time for me."
If not for the injuries that slowed him down, Flynn believes he could've been very useful to the team, especially because of his versatility -- he can easily switch between playing center and left wing.
"Before that, when the team was hit by a bunch of injuries, I could've had a bigger role and raised my game up a notch. I played really well and contributed a bit of offense while some of our best players were hurt," recounted Flynn, who enjoyed a two-goal night during a 10-1 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche on December 10.
Video: COL@MTL: Flynn pots second goal on backhand shot
Flynn was also one of the most reliable defensive-forwards on the third or fourth lines, and was often paired with Torrey Mitchell or Tomas Plekanec on the penalty kill. Flynn and Mitchell killed a total of 20:40 in penalties together, and were on the ice for only one opposing power play goal, an average of 2.9 per 60 minutes. That number makes them the top shorthanded pairing among forwards. Flynn was also part of the second-best such pairing, this time with Plekanec, boasting an average of 3.4 goals per 60 minutes (one goal in 17:54 of shorthanded ice time).
If there's one thing the Lynnfield, MA native would like to improve on, it's his work around the opposing net.
"I have to find a way to generate more offense, and it'll happen if I get myself in front of the net more often. It's not a secret, that's where almost all goals are scored," explained Flynn. "If you take advantage of rebounds at the right moment, it'll help with your confidence and that can help you go far."
Set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Flynn would like to stay in Montreal to continue building on the chemistry he felt in the Canadiens dressing room in 2016-17.
"We had a good group. It felt like family. We would all go out to eat together on the road, instead of everyone going their separate ways like I've seen on other teams. I think it would've been really special for this group to go deep in the playoffs, but the core is good and it'll be here for a while," relayed Flynn, who has played 116 games with the Canadiens since arriving at the trade deadline in 2015. "Management is trying to surround this core with the best possible help and I hope I'll be a part of that.
"I would like to come back, because even though we lost in the first round, I think this team is much closer than you think and can go farther and have a chance to win the Cup," concluded Flynn. "I've been treated really well here and it's the best place in the NHL to play hockey, with the fans and all that [the Canadiens] mean for the city, so obviously I want to come back."