If the Flyers are going to spoil Washington’s chances of winning the East Division title, they are going to have to slow down the Capitals’ power play.
Good luck with that.
The teams meet Friday and Saturday in D.C.
The Capitals entered Wednesday’s game against the Rangers with the league’s third-best power play, clicking at 25.7%.
The Flyers’ penalty kill is 30th in the 31-team league, and they have been successful just 71.9% of the time.
“Not too sure what exactly the problem is,” said center Sean Couturier, who has averaged more time per game on the power play (2:03) than any Flyers forward this season, “but we definitely need to be better.”
There are many reasons for the Flyers’ penalty-kill decline from last year, including the loss of two key players, an increase in penalties, and the failures of their goaltenders.
A year ago, the Flyers’ penalty kill was 11th in the league at 81.8%, so its drop has been major.
Last season’s penalty kill had Matt Niskanen getting the second-most minutes (2:37 on the PK), and had Tyler Pitlick getting a decent amount of time (1:02). Niskanen retired, and Pitlick signed as a free agent with Arizona, where he has averaged 2:06 per game on the Coyotes’ PK.
The biggest changes on this year’s penalty kill: the additions of Phil Myers and Joel Farabee on it.
Among players who were penalty-kill regulars the last two seasons, Justin Braun has had the highest increase in PK time (plus-36 seconds per game over last year), while Kevin Hayes has had the biggest decrease in PK time (minus-40 seconds per game from last year).
Coach Alain Vigneault likes to call the goalies “your most important penalty killer,” and they have struggled mightily in those situations this season.
Among NHL goalies who have played at least 20 games, Carter Hart, whose season has ended because of a knee injury, is 44th with a .781 save percentage while shorthanded. Brian Elliott is 32nd with an .850 save percentage in shorthanded situations.
The Flyers have committed the most minor penalties in the NHL (267 in 53 games), a dramatic increase from last season, when they had the league’s 20th-most minors (216 in 69 games), according to ESPN.
That has given opponents more power-play chances, and that has led to many more goals against. Way too many.
And the breakdowns by the penalty kill, which is coached by Mike Yeo, have played a key role in causing the Flyers to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last nine seasons.
The Flyers signed wingers Elliot Desnoyers (5-foot-11, 172) and Olle Lycksell (5-11, 176) to entry-level contracts that start in the 2021-22 season.
Desnoyers, 19, who had 21 goals and 49 points in 37 QMJHL games for Halifax this season, was a fifth-round pick last year.
“He played a strong two-way game with a lot of passion,” said Brent Flahr, a Flyers assistant general manager. “As he matures physically and gets stronger, his game should continue to grow.”
Lycksell, 21, had 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in 46 games in the Swedish Hockey League this season. He was a sixth-round selection in 2017.
Flahr said he had a terrific second half of the season, “and we look forward for him to continue to grow his game.”
The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin (lower-body injury) did not play Wednesday against the Rangers. ... Washington is 7-for-14 on the power play in six games vs. the Flyers this season. … The Flyers scored a 7-4 win over the Capitals in their first meeting this season but have lost the last five matchups. … The Caps have averaged 4.8 goals per games against the Flyers and have outscored them, 29-19. … By appearing in his 500th game Tuesday, Brian Elliott became the fourth goaltender to reach that milestone while playing for the Flyers, joining Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, and Jeff Hackett. Ever since being drafted by Ottawa in the ninth round, second-to-last overall in 2003, Elliott said, “it really puts a burr in your saddle and you just want to prove to everybody you can do it. I’ve had a lot of help through the years, starting with my parents, family, my brother, and then teammates and coaches. Everybody has a role in getting you to a point where you can play 500 games.” … After two games in Washington, the Flyers finish their season Monday against the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center.