A year ago, the Flyers' special teams weren't so special.
Far from it.
The power play was mediocre, finishing 15th in the 31-team NHL with a 20.7 percent success rate. The penalty kill was awful, finishing 29th with a 75.8 percent success rate.
The power play should be considerably better this season. The addition of free-agent signee James van Riemsdyk will give them more balance – and should give them two productive units. The Flyers also will benefit from having Wayne Simmonds healthy this season.
Last season, the Flyers' first power-play unit did its job, but the second unit was abysmal. Hard to believe, but the second unit all season scored just one power-play goal in which three players from that unit each collected a point.
Assuming everyone is healthy, here is how the Flyers' power-play units might look:
First unit: Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, van Riemsdyk, and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Second unit: Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Jordan Weal, Simmonds, and Ivan Provorov.
Giroux was tied for sixth in the NHL with 36 power-play points last season, Voracek (35 points) was tied for eighth, and Gostisbehere was tied for 10th (33).
Simmonds and van Riemsdyk are interchangeable and could play in the goalie's face on either unit. Van Riemsdyk had a career-high 11 PP goals last season while playing for Toronto. Simmonds has reached double figures in PP goals in each of the last five years (15, 14, 13, 16, and 11 last season).
As for the penalty kill, coach Dave Hakstol has experimented with many players in the preseason and the unit is still a work-in-progress entering the final two exhibition games: Thursday against the visiting New York Rangers and Saturday in Boston.
It was surprising that general manager Ron Hextall didn't add a quality penalty killer in the off-season.
Earlier in training camp, Hextall said he liked what he saw from the PK in the last two-plus months last season, during which it had a 78.6 percent success rate from Feb. 1 until the end of the season. That wasn't great, but it was 19th in the league in that span.
"We saw some good signs at the end of the year," Hextall said, adding it gave him some "comfort" going into this season.
In Monday's 4-3 preseason loss to Boston, the Flyers' PK was 3 for 3 and Dale Weise scored a shorthanded goal. Scott Laughton (3:22), Corban Knight (2:44), Jori Lehtera (1:44), and Weise (1:22) were the forwards who spent the most time on the PK. Christian Folin (3:38), Ivan Provorov (2:53), and since-demoted Phil Myers (2:24) were the most-used defensemen.
When he returns from a knee injury, Couturier figures to get the most PK time among forwards. Giroux, coming off a 102-point season, also could see time on the PK, but Hakstol would like to keep him fresh at even strength and on the power play, so he might get limited action shorthanded.