Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Flyers power play is struggling. It’s been an ongoing problem for this team and there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in site. What they lack in firepower on the man advantage, they have plenty of it when it comes to the penalty kill.
Otherwise known as the “power kill” the unit has shown much of an aggressiveness to it. They aren’t afraid to challenge shooters and certainly take their opportunities to go the other way. After another perfect night against the Penguins on Monday night, the unit has now killed off 35 of its last 37 penalties. They have not allowed a goal on the power play since Nov. 18.
"“It has kind of overridden some of the problems our power play has given us this year, where it’s kind of deflated us,” Tortorella said on Monday morning. “So we’re about even right now, I’ll put it to you that way. It has really helped us and our power play has put us in some tough spots as far as momentum.”"
Special teams can often win or lose a game for the team. Take the last two games as an example. Pittsburgh had a combined eight opportunities in the last two games. Each game was determined by one goal. Scoring just one time on the man advantage could’ve won the Penguins one, or even both, games. Conversely, the Flyers killed off all eight chances and even scored on one of them. While that goal didn’t win them the game, it certainly gave them a boost in tying the game as it came from Scott Laughton. It also led to their first comeback win of the season.
The Flyers are tied for the league lead in short handed goals with six. Four of those have come while on the road. Their 85.4% efficiency is seventh in the league. Looking at their last 11 games, they’ve killed off almost 95% of the penalties they’ve been faced with. Taking into account how many short handed goals they’ve scored versus power play goals they’ve allowed, they actually have a net PK% of 92.7, good for third in the league. In simpler terms, that’s 12 power play goals scored on them to the six they’ve scored short handed.
Their PK success has them among the likes of the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, and Vegas Golden Knights. Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the best teams in the league, you know you’re doing something right.
The example above gives you an idea of the Flyers’ willingness to leave the zone to make their own offense. As the puck goes into the corner, you can see Laughton beginning to break toward the neutral zone. Nick Seeler banks the puck out of the zone with speed, which ends up allowing Laughton to get the step on Evgeni Malkin to make the goal happen. Seeler may not have been intending for that to happen, but the aggressiveness of this unit gives them the opportunity to do so.
Using another example, you can see Sean Walker step up in the play to knock the puck off the stick of Adam Fantilli. Ryan Poehling and Garnet Hathaway are already toward the top of the zone as well and are able to break once Walker gains control of the puck and knocks it forward. That creates the 2-on-0 opportunity. And that sets up the back and forth passing to get Spencer Martin off balance for the tap in goal for Poehling.
There are plenty of other examples to use but they all have the same thing in common. The Flyers aren’t stagnant on the penalty kill. They aren’t just waiting for the other team to make a move. They are forcing those moves with their aggressiveness which can make a team make a mistake with their paces. It forces them to rush in moments they may not be ready for. And that’s where the Flyers can take advantage.
If the Flyers can find a way to solve their power play issues, they can be a dangerous team when it comes to the special teams battle. But for now, the PK has been carrying them in a large way.