Looking at the Flyers’ power play and some thoughts on how to improve it
They've been getting their chances, but a struggling power play lately played a significant role in Tuesday's loss to the Penguins.
The Flyers are in a 3-for-30 slump on the power play that goes back to early February before they suffered an acute case of season interruptus.
Let’s instead go back to the Rangers game — a week ago today. That’s a better barometer for how this power play is struggling and what they can do about it.
Lost in Claude Giroux’s triumphant three-assist return that Feb. 24 night was the power play, after scoring twice early, that suddenly went cold.
The Flyers failed to connect on their last five chances, including a healthy two-man advantage for 1 minute, 17 seconds. To be fair, their final power-play opportunity came with nine seconds left, and New York’s bus warming up. But the Flyers’ win, the captain’s presence and the hope of more reinforcements joining the team in Buffalo had optimism high.
On to Buffalo where the Flyers controlled most of the play, their goaltenders recorded shutouts, and the Sabres often looked uninterested. Who cares the Flyers went 0 for 5 on the power play over the weekend?
But then Tuesday came and the ineffectiveness became a problem as they squandered five more chances and (gasp) lost to a Penguins team without Sidney Crosby.
“I like the looks we’re getting. I think we’re working the right way,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I believe if you play the right way. If you do the right things on the power play, you’re going to get the results that you want to get. We don’t have those results at this moment.”
There’s another issue. Practice time will be at a premium as Vigneault — and really all NHL staffs — try to manage team improvement against player maintenance. With so many Flyers’ games (29) in so many days (51), Vigneault can’t wear his players down.
The Flyers had 11 shots on goal on their five power plays Tuesday. Shayne Gostisbehere quarterbacks the first unit with Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. The second unit was Ivan Provorov with Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Kevin Hayes and Jake Voracek.
The talent is there, but perhaps there are some personnel changes to be had. Maybe put Giroux and Voracek on the second unit since they spent most of the last decade paired with one another, and bring Konecny up.
They also could bring defenseman Erik Gustafsson back into the lineup and hope his defense isn’t a liability, and his offense can kick-start a power play that is in an 0 for 15 drought that covers 26 minutes, 52 seconds and 32 shots on goal.
Buffalo came into the weekend series 21st in penalty killing, Pittsburgh started the current series ranked 29th. Entering Wednesday, the Flyers power play is 21st.
“We’re going to continue to work,” Vigneault said. “Whether it’s through video or morning skates, we’re going to find a way to get this to work.”
Quote to note
The Penguins are 19-6-4 over the last two seasons without Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin had just one assist, but he was a handful for the Flyers on Tuesday.
“He’s a threat every time he goes over the boards,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Our opponents need to pay attention when he’s on the ice. It’s not always about goals and an assists. It’s about playing the game the right way.”
Malkin has 74 points in 61 regular-season games in his career against Philadelphia, plus another 27 points in 22 postseason meetings.