For the first time in training camp, the Flyers did extensive work on their power play Friday, and the first unit was extremely sharp during five-on-four drills in Voorhees.
“I thought today was a good step in the right direction,” said center Kevin Hayes, who was dominating on the top power-play unit. “We had a couple meetings. Got guys in the places that coach wants them to be. I didn’t really watch the other group as much because we were chit-chatting on the bench after our rep. I thought our unit looked pretty good.”
Hayes, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provorov, who alternated with Shayne Gostisbehere, were on the top unit. Hayes spent a lot of time on the second unit last year, but he and Jake Voracek switched units in Friday’s session. Giroux was used mostly on the left side.
“I thought for Day 1, we had some good looks,” Hayes said. “We tried to build some chemistry with G [Giroux] and Coots [Couturier] on the flank.”
“It felt good today,” Konecny said. “It’s easy to say when you are out there and there is not a ton of pressure on you. But for the first practice, I thought it looked pretty good.”
Konecny was stationed in front of the net on the power play, and he said he likes that spot, which he played in last season’s playoffs. He said he is still learning how to play it effectively, but that he benefited from watching former Flyer Wayne Simmonds in that role for several years.
The second unit, which wasn’t as sharp Friday, was composed primarily of newcomer Erik Gustafsson, Travis Sanheim, Voracek, Nolan Patrick, and James van Riemsdyk. Sanheim, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost alternated.
Oskar Lindblom was not on the power play Friday, but coach Alain Vigneault said he could land on one of the units.
“Those were options we didn’t have last year,” said Vigneault, referring to Patrick and Lindblom.
Patrick missed last season because of a migraine disorder, and Lindblom played in just 30 games after being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer.
The Flyers’ power play, under the direction of Michel Therrien, was much improved in last year’s regular season, going from tied for 22nd in the NHL (17.1%) in 2018-19 to 14th (20.8%). But the power play shot blanks in the postseason, connecting on just 7.7% (4-for-52) of its opportunities, including 0-for-13 in the conference semifinals against the Islanders.
“I think we had an above-average year with the power play last year,” Hayes said. “Playoffs didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We got some good looks, but we didn’t put the puck in the net. It doesn’t matter how many good looks you are getting; if you don’t score, it doesn’t help your team. That’s last year. It’s a whole new year. Doesn’t matter how good or bad you were.”
The Flyers will do a lot more power-play work at practices Saturday and Sunday; they also will have power-play time in Sunday’s 7 p.m. intrasquad scrimmage at the Wells Fargo Center. (In scrimmages thus far, a team was given a penalty shot instead of a power play if there was a penalty.)
The power play is “obviously an important part” of the team’s success, Vigneault said. “I believe this year we have a little bit more internal competition going on and it should make for a good power play. Prior to the shutdown [last March], our power play was clicking. It obviously was off as far as finishing when we went into the bubble. When we analyzed our stats, we still got some good looks. We just had a tough time finishing.”