Flyers not discouraged by special teams struggles

Flyers not discouraged by special teams struggles
January 30, 2013, 6:15 pm
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VOORHEES, N.J. – Dead last in the Atlantic Division, 13th place in the Eastern Conference and with a 2-5 record, the Flyers are far from happy with the way the season has gone for them so far.

That said, they have a pretty good idea of how to turn things around.

“Nobody’s happy,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s not where we want to be. There’s only one way to fix it, and that’s to come in and practice hard and approach [Friday’s game in Washington] with a positive attitude – that we’re going to get on a train, get into a different city and take two points home with us. That’s where we’re at.”

And on Wednesday at Skate Zone, “practice hard” is exactly what they did. Instead of the scheduled day off they were slated for, the Flyers spent an hour working solely on special teams, the area of their game that has arguably struggled the most.

The Flyers are 5-for-37 on the power play this season – a 13.5 percent rate of effectiveness – good enough to put them at 23rd in the league. Their penalty kill, with its 67.7 percent success rate, is better than only the Anaheim Ducks’.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but I don’t think we’re discouraged,” Danny Briere said. “We’re feeling that we’re not very far away. If we keep playing with the same intensity that we did for most of the game [Tuesday], we’ll be in good shape. We played a very good opponent yesterday, they got the breaks, but we’re not that far off. We’re right there.”

They might not be discouraged, but there is a general feeling of frustration amongst most of the Flyers. The chances are there, but pucks just aren’t hitting the back of the net. Even Scott Hartnell, who stopped by to visit his teammates Wednesday afternoon, could sense it (see story).

That frustration has been amplified, Wayne Simmonds said, because goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has played so well.

“Bryz, obviously, he’s been playing well, and we want to help him out,” Simmonds said. “We want to score goals, we want to get him wins. I think he’s going to continue to play that way for the rest of the year, and hopefully we can figure this out and start getting wins.”

Bryzgalov has a 2.19 goals-against average and .924 save percentage – both ninth-best in the NHL. To add a little perspective, the eight goalies with GAAs better than his have one regulation loss combined. Bryzgalov has four.

“That’s the positive, we know we can rely on him,” Briere said. “We know he gives us a chance to win almost every single night. We also believe we’re not that far off from breaking it open and getting some goals. We’ve worked on the power play and the penalty kill unit this morning, I think it was needed. A little confidence will go a long way.”

The first step to building that confidence? To put their struggles behind them and get to work, according to Laviolette. Just like they did Wednesday.

“When you get out of bed, I don’t expect guys to come in here skipping along and whistling to a beat,” Laviolette said. “It’s hard when you lose. I think through the course of the day, when you have meetings and you work on things and you go practice, you change that angry feeling or that – not depressed, but upset feeling from what happened the night before and you try to turn that into a positive and get ready for the next game.”

Who’s that guy?
Ilya Bryzgalov, who played very well in the Flyers’ 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night, had the day off Wednesday. In his place was Joe Rivera, a former equipment manager for the Phantoms.

Rivera has served as a practice goalie for the Flyers in the past. He was right at home on the ice and in the locker room with the team.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering – the Flyers did manage to send four goals past him while working on their struggling power play.

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