Both fans and commentators of the Philadelphia Flyers seem to have trouble identifying in-game line changes. Rarely does Craig Berube shuffle the lines during a game. Last week he placed Wayne Simmonds on a line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier for a third period, but that is not the norm. However, following penalty kills and power plays there is always a shift or two in which the lines are shuffled.
Whenever the Flyers finish a special teams sequence twitter blows up. Tweets abound about the new lines and who Berube has switched in the line up. These changes do not last and are solely a result of special teams pplay. Let’s take last night’s third period sequence as an example.
First Shift – Flyers started the period with :45 seconds of power play time. Berube has a habit of putting a true defensive pairing out on the ice when there is less than a minute remaining on the power play. He does not want to be caught with four forwards on the ice as the game returns to even strength. Because Voracek lines up at the point on the power play, he had to sit the beginning of the period. Therefore, the Flyers 3rd period starting lineup looked like this:
Seccond shift – After the power play ended, the Flyers put five players on the ice who do not play on the power play. The Couturier line and the Coburn/Grossmann defense pair took a regular shift together:
Third shift – Having already had Giroux and Hartnell on the ice during the period, Berube wanted to put the Schenn line out on the ice. However, due to the power play at the beginning of the period, Simmonds had already taken a shift in the third. In order to give him rest and get Voracek skating, Voracek took a shift on the second line. The announcers seemed to make a big deal of Voracek moving down a line, but in reality it was only temporary.
Fourth shift – The next line in the rotation was the Giroux line. However, Simmonds needed to go back to his original line and Voracek had just skated with Vinny and BSchenn. Therefore, Berube gave versatile winger Michael Raffl a shift on the top line to rest Simmonds and Voracek.
Fifth shift – The fourth shift last 23 seconds, all of which was played in the offensive zone. Raffl had barely touched the ice and this gave Berube an opportunity to set his lines straight. He kept Raffl out there and replaced Giroux and Hartnell with Hall and Rinaldo. Raffl then scored and the announcers made a big deal about his double shift and his first line play. In reality, it was just the final step of readjusting the lines after a power play.
Raffl scored only 14 seconds into the shift. After the goal Berube came back with Couturier’s line and the other lines were set for the remainder of the game. Raffl’s “double shift” last 37 seconds, all of which were played in the Sharks zone.
Similarly, the Flyers lines are always different following a penalty kill. Since Couturier, Read, and Hall are key penalty killers, Steve Downie is forced to take an even strength shift or two with the likes of Raffl and/or Rinaldo. Similarly, a pairing of Streit and Gustafsson is not uncommon after a penalty kill because Timonen, Coburn, Grossmann, and LSchenn play a majority of the PK minutes for the defense.
Next time the lines look funny during a game, do not go straight to twitter. Ask yourself if the Flyers have just finished a special teams sequence. More often than not, the lines are just readjusting. Look for it during the Flyers next game, it is fun to watch the progression.