Anyone watching the Philadelphia Flyers this season has noticed that they take an obscene amount of penalties. They lead the league in total penalty minutes (845 minutes through 53 games), total penalty killing time (369 minutes in 53 games), and are second to last in power play to penalty kill differential (37:50 more PK time than PP time). The Flyers 15.9 penalty minutes per game average is the most in the league and a full minute ahead of the next closest team (Vancouve Canucks, 14.9). The Flyers roster is has its holes, but couldn’t the Flyers improve a lot if they just kept their penalties down?
I believe so. Right now the Flyers are 15th in the NHL in power play goals against (54). Their 11th ranked penalty kill is the only thing keeping that number in the top half of the league. Their penalty kill was in the top 5 in the NHL until Saturday afternoon, when the Flyer allowed three power plays goals to the Boston Bruins. Even so, if the Flyers have allowed 54 power play goals, that is almost exactly one per game. A team can have a top notch penalty kill, but an excessive amount of penalties will eventually result in goals against.
Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill lead the Flyers in penalty minutes. That should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is also not surprising that the next few players on the list are Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, and Scott Hartnell. All four of those players play a physical game and are prone to spells of undisciplined play. Their combined 233 penalty minutes is just too high. They need to do better, period.
So what can the Flyers do to fix this problem? It starts with skating faster, especially on the blue line. The Flyers, as a team, are slow and this leads to a lot of holding, tripping, and hooking penalties. The penalty differential of the Flyers defense is -52. That means that this season they have taken a combined 52 more penalties than they have drawn. That is an average of about one per game.
Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gill are each -1 in penalty differential. Hal Gill has only played in four games, so his influence is marginal. Gustafsson, however, is the Flyers fastest defenseman. Therefore, when he is caught out of position, he can skate his way back into the play as opposed to hooking or holding his opponent like Timonen and Grossmann tend to do.
Craig Berube has preached skating and discipline ever since he took over as head coach. Unfortunately, the Flyers still have not been able to consistently skate well and they continue to take needless penalties. With the Olympic trade freeze and the trade deadline coming, much is being made of the Flyers roster needs. I agree completely that they could use a few upgrades. But even with some upgrades, a team that is in the penalty box as much as the Philadelphia Flyers are will have a hard time in March, April, and May.