Flyers' power play on fire
IT WAS ONE timeout that Peter Laviolette, the master of such things, actually regretted. Nevermind the fact that Laviolette's team scored just 55 seconds after he whistled them together, providing a last-minute reminder for the pending 5-on-3 advantage the Flyers were about to enjoy.
IT WAS ONE timeout that Peter Laviolette, the master of such things, actually regretted.
Nevermind the fact that Laviolette's team scored just 55 seconds after he whistled them together, providing a last-minute reminder for the pending 5-on-3 advantage the Flyers were about to enjoy.
Game 3 was tied at one at that point on Sunday afternoon. Danny Briere scored then to make it 2-1. Less than 4 minutes later, Briere piled it on to make the score 3-1. The Flyers never looked back.
On Wednesday, the Flyers will have the opportunity to sweep a best-of-seven series for just the fourth time in 44 years in Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.
"That timeout kind of burned me," Laviolette said. "Well, not burned me, but bothered me. I tried to use it for a good reason. We didn't need to go over the 5-on-3, that's been set. It's been worked on.
"But the power play revolves around Claude [Giroux]. He was in the box. We wanted to make sure we had the right personnel in the right places, make sure that we were all set. We viewed that as a big turning point in the game."
The Flyers' special teams, improbably, have been the turning point in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, as they've outscored Pittsburgh, 9-2, in that category.
Those nine goals are a staggering number, something that normally would be an acceptable number for an even-strength unit over three postseason games. The Flyers' power play is 6-for-10 and the penalty kill has chipped in with three shorthanded goals. Pittsburgh has just two power-play goals and none shorthanded.
"They've been big goals in big situations," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said in a Monday conference call with reporters. "It's a huge factor. They were goals one, two and three in Game 2. They were goals one, two, five and six in Game 3. We haven't done what we've been successful at all year."
Besides the shoddy goaltending and the fact that leading scorer Evgeni Malkin has maintained residence on a milk carton, Pittsburgh's inefficient special teams may be the most shocking stat of the series. The Penguins allowed just 33 goals on the power play over 82 games, the second fewest in the NHL.
They've allowed six in three playoff games, operating at a mind-numbing 40 percent kill rate.
There were just 183 shorthanded goals scored by all 30 teams combined this season over 1,230 games - an average of 0.14 shorthanded goals per game. The Flyers have three in three games.
The numbers are all so incredibly rare - which might explain the Flyers' surprising stranglehold on the series.
"We've given them too much respect," Bylsma said. "They're a talented group. Their power play has been very effective. But we've backed off in a lot of areas where we've been good, like the penalty kill. We've given them too much time and space."
At the onset of the series, the Penguins' power play appeared to be vulnerable - especially if they decided to use five forwards on one unit. They haven't done that. Yet, the Flyers have been in their faces.
Laviolette chalked it up to the Flyers "winning some foot races."
"I think that players are executing, and we're trying to keep it simple," Laviolette said. "It's difficult. Pittsburgh does a great job blocking shots and getting in the way."
Giroux said assistant coach Craig Berube has stressed gap control against Sidney Crosby and Malkin. Pittsburgh finished the regular season with the fifth-best power play (19.7 percent) and third-best penalty kill (87.8 percent).
"Guys are listening," Giroux said. "We want to take their big gaps away. They have guys who are obviously pretty dangerous, so it's important for us to be hard on them."
As the series progresses, the numbers will regress closer to the mean once the sample size enlarges. For now, though, the Flyers are enjoying their jaw-dropping success.
"It's not like they're pretty goals," Giroux said. "We're just winning battles and shooting pucks. It's guys getting rebounds and moving the puck. We've had pretty much the same units all season. When the puck goes somewhere, everyone knows where it's going to go."
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