When Scott Gordon was named the Flyers’ interim coach Dec. 17, the team’s penalty kill was in shambles – 30th in the 31-team NHL with just a 73.5 percent success rate in 31 games.
Heading into Thursday’s matchup against powerful Washington, the penalty kill, under the direction of assistant Ian Laperriere and tweaked by Gordon, had made a dramatic turnaround. The Flyers had a success rate of 82.5 percent in 38 games under Gordon, helping them climb into the playoff race.
Credit much more aggression on the PK – they had been sitting back and letting their opponents dictate the play -- and more shorthanded time given to Claude Giroux and Oskar Lindblom, who was used in that role under Gordon with the AHL’s Phantoms. Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Ivan Provorov, and Radko Gudas have also played prominent roles.
“More pressure to the puck on the half wall; we’re not worried so much about the weak side,” Gordon said when asked why he thought the PK had made strides. “From what I remember of the beginning of the year, there was kind of a passiveness down low. The coverage was more on putting an emphasis on what was happening between the dots. I believe you have to get some pressure on the puck in all situations.”
As skilled as the players are on the power play, you want to force them “to make plays under duress versus having [the time] to size things up,” Gordon said. “When there’s an element of pressure on players … and it’s rushed, it often means the passing line to their target isn’t accurate and you can get more turnovers.”
Gordon said the PK turnaround started a few games before he replaced Dave Hakstol.
“They were starting to get more pressure on the puck, and certainly down ice,” he said. “I think that’s helped the penalty kill, and certainly being really aggressive on entries and trying to not allow the opposition to get set up. Those are two areas they really built on and that was going on before I got here.”
The Flyers had allowed just one power-play goal in 14 chances over their last six games before Thursday.