Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Posted: 4:03 p.m.By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com
If nothing else, the Flyers are consistent on their power play.
Theyre 10 for their last-56, which is 17.9 percent. Thats slightly better than their seasons overall percentage (16.7) for a group that has been underachieving for the past 2 months.
Power-play coach Joey Mullen admits concern given the man advantage has been stagnant since mid-November, when it was ranked eighth in the NHL at 21.9 percent.
Weve struggled, basically, all year, a little bit, Mullen said. Our numbers are OK, but its not up to our standards. The last three years, basically, weve had the same core of guys.
We added a couple of guys Andrej Meszaros over the summer who make the power play better. Its definitely perplexing. If you have better players, you think the power play should do better.
Last year, it finished third overall in the league at 21.4 percent.
This season, its gotten to the point where coach Peter Laviolette has used three units and mixed and matched guys to try to find a solution, something that both Mike Richards and Ville Leino feel hasnt really worked.
The old units werent working very well, so we did shake it up, Laviolette said. At times, you can go through chemistry issues. But there shouldnt be any confusion who the units are because its all laid out for them in advance. Sometimes the chemistry part of it does take some time.
On Tuesday, the first unit was Richards with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux. Chris Pronger and regular partner Matt Carle were the points. The second unit was the entire Briere line Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Leino. That was the top unit when the season began.
In simple terms, the Flyers arent getting their point shots through, and as one Flyer of past noted this week, Theyre getting outworked and need to pick it up.
Weve got to start producing on our power play, Laviolette said.
Because things have been so dreadful, the units have been all over the map.
Were not being patient with it, were switching a lot of the units up, Richards said, a veiled criticism of the coaching staffs strategy. Before when we had success, we had two units, and you called one and five guys hopped over the bench. Power play has a lot to do with chemistry on the ice.
You need a shooting mentality. We have a lot of the guys we had success here from before. We need to build that chemistry up so we can make some different plays. Its tough to do when you keep switching it up. We've got to let other teams penalty kills adapt to us and not us adapt to the penalty kill.
Leino echoed some of those thoughts, but the truth is, the Flyers are not getting good looks, decent shots, or even good rebounds. Plus, their puck movement is slow.
The coaching staffs patience to stick with certain players has worn out. Hence, the recent changes in personnel. Can you blame them?
When you go out there, youre not exactly sure what youre going to do out there or who you are playing with, Leino said. If I know Mike Richards, I know what he is going to do. Or Danny B. or Hartnell, I know what theyre doing.
But you go out there and youre watching and kind of hesitating and there is no hesitation with the PK. I think it hurts a little bit. Hopefully, well have two units and keep them together for a while. ... We changed players every period, every game and it hasnt worked.
Thats another shot at coaching strategy. Again, however, the old units werent working.
Back in November, Leino said his confidence was so high that the Briere line wanted to get on the ice right away before the other unit scored.
It was almost a competition.
These days, there is no competition because no units are working properly. Leino admitted quicker puck movement and more shots up top would be welcomed right now.
Earlier this season, the Flyers had set plays out there to run. Thats gone, as well.
When you play with the same players, you know the plays, know their tendencies, and you get a feel for what plays are open, Leino said, adding that reuniting the Briere line and allowing it to function as a power-play unit again should help in this department.
The bottom line? It cant get much worse. The power play is 1-for-20 over the last six games.
Every day we think about it, talk about it, work on it in practice, but the way the schedule goes, lot of times, you dont have time to work on the power play, Mullen said.
There are 20 games left for the Flyers to figure this out before the playoffs begin. You dont want to begin the hunt for the Stanley Cup with a weak link and the power play is definitely a weak link.
The execution has got to get better, Mullen said. And the point shots have to get through to the net.
Simple stuff, really. Yet for the Flyers, its like calculus.
Richards, who had flu symptoms last week, said he has been feeling better the last couple games.
Offensively, he is mired in a slump with just two goals in his last 14 games.
General manager Paul Holmgren thinks Richards game is coming around again.
He lost a lot of weight and slowly he gained it back, he said. I think he is slowly gaining his strength back. I actually think he has played better over the last two games.
He gutted it out against the Rangers and then he struggled a little bit against Phoenix. But I thought the Islander game and Ottawa game he tried to do things with the puck, tried to make plays. Other than gaining his strength and weight back, there is nothing wrong with him.
Richards, whose weight has been as high as 203 this year, is down to about 198 pounds.
I got some weight and strength back and feel a little bit better that I lost a little weight, he said. Ive kept it off.
Dan Carcillo (illness) and James van Riemsdyk (lower body) both missed practice. Holmgren said both are expected to play against Toronto.Now, Nick Boynton hit JVR pretty hard in practice on Monday. Holmgren said that was not a factor in his injury. The way JVR was walking, it looked like a groin issue.
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was wearing an ice bag on his right shoulder while Meszaros had one wrapped around his left foot and was limping.
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