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Flyers' penalty kill trends upward against Columbus, but power play continues to struggle

The Flyers have now killed 14 penalties in a row, including five in Thursday's game against Columbus.

The Flyers have now killed 14 penalties in a row, including five in Thursday's loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Flyers have now killed 14 penalties in a row, including five in Thursday's loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Rub your eyes.

Rub ‘em again.

The Flyers have now killed 14 penalties in a row.

Not enough for a parade. But man, what a step in the right direction.

So what’s changed? We asked after they killed off five against Columbus in Thursday night’s 4-3 overtime loss.

They answered.

“I think we’re more aggressive up ice, so it’s tough for them to set it up,” Sean Couturier said. “Goalies making some key saves and that always helps, lucky bounces and stuff like that. It goes that way sometimes when the puck finds its way and sometimes you kill it off.”

Scott Laughton added: “I don’t think we let them set up, and we were down ice pressuring them and we did good things.”

Laughton logged 2:58 on the penalty kill. That’s low for him, but he took, in his words, “two dumb penalties,” so there you have it. The Flyers have worked the 200 feet during this stretch more effectively than in the past, leaning heavily on their better players in the process.

Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were each out there for more than half of the Blue Jackets’ 10 minutes of man advantage Thursday.

Know how much of it Nolan Patrick was on the ice for? Try 11 seconds. Know how much of it Travis Sanheim was on the ice for? Nineteen seconds. Oskar Lindblom wasn’t out there at all.

If assistant coach Ian Laperriere was allowed to talk to the media — and in this new regime he just might be — he would point out that the Flyers' apparent passivity this season has something to do with employing young players unfamiliar with the duties required to kill penalties. It’s hard to communicate if you’re not sure. It’s hard to be aggressive too.

On his way out last week, former General manager Ron Hextall admitted he had not addressed the PK adequately in the offseason, noting that the injury to Corban Knight — a veteran who had carved a niche in such a role — hampered it even further.

"I thought we did a good job of not letting them set up and make good plays and we have to continue to do that," said Laughton. "It gives us a good chance to win when we kill that many."

Well, in the aggregate maybe. The down side, of course, is that it wears out the elite players that are leaned on like Giroux, Couturier and even Provorov. Which may at least contribute to their continued woes on the power play, which went scoreless in five tries Thursday, and is operating at just over 11 percent since an early hot start.

“You feel the pressure. We’re trying to make the extra play,” said Giroux, who agreed with someone’s promise that they were pressing. “Our power play, when it’s not going in we start overthinking it. And doing things that we usually don’t do. We’re going to have one and then we’re going to start putting them in again.”