The Flyers slogged their way through the month of November going 6 for 54 (11.1 percent) on the power play over 12 games.
Two games into December, the much abused power-play units showed a fairly strong pulse out west, going 5 for 12 (41.6 percent).
Its alive, its alive! as Dr. Frankenstein (aka assistant coach Joey Mullen) screamed.
It would be nice if we could control things that way and score with it early in every game, Danny Briere said. Look at that first goal against Phoenix that Matt Read scored on the power play. That was a great, fortunate bounce for us and gave us momentum to carry on.
Two of the Flyers four first period goals against the Coyotes were power-play goals that generated momentum throughout the lineup during a 4-2 victory.
Power plays and even penalty killing, when they do their job, it changes the momentum of the game and gets you in a rhythm and obviously, power plays are huge in the game, Claude Giroux said. Weve been working hard on it.
For far too long this season, the Flyers have had to rely solely on five-on-five scoring to win games, placing a disproportionate amount of even-strength scoring pressure on them because their power-play units were so pitiful.
That the Flyers scored five power-play goals without Chris Pronger is an achievement. Prongers presence is one of directing traffic and throwing hard, accurate point shots.
His eight power play points (one goal) are diminished only because hes missed 12 games because of injury and illness.
Then again, the Flyers got Jaromir Jagr back in the lineup on this recent road trip. Jagr was huge part of three of those power play goals against Anaheim. He has eight power-play points this season (four goals, four assists).
Theres no question, he is one of the elite players to ever play the game offensively, said coach Peter Laviolette. When you bring someone back into the mix five-on-five and power play mix, youre going to be able to reap the benefits of that. He thinks the game at a different level offensively. Putting him on your power play only makes it better.
Jagr had two power-play goals in the Flyers 4-3 overtime win at Anaheim but did not get a power-play point in Phoenix.
You need the power play to score when you need it to score, Jagr said. Sometimes you dont really need it if you have a 7-2 lead. You dont need to score on the power play. When you play against a really good team, the chances on the power play can change the game.
Pronger is expected to miss at least 10 more games this month so, the Flyers need to adapt without him. They have been using forwards at the point, introducing new faces such as Brayden Schenn, and mixing up their units a bit.
Teams cheat on him a little more, Jagr said of the difference without Pronger. They give him a little more room and it gives the power play a little more time to do something.
When hes not there, somebody else is on the blue line. Other teams are pressuring those guys a little more and we dont have as much time. We should probably play a little more differently until we get him back.
The Flyers highest power play ranking this season was second, but that was after one game. Through much of October, they ranked in the top six.
November saw them plummet to 15th before moving up to their current spot of sixth over the weekend.
We worked a lot of hours on the power play the last week and obviously it paid off and got us a couple wins, Giroux said. When the power play gets a couple goals, it brings momentum.
Jagrs impact with Giroux is frighteningly good and a major reason why Giroux remains tied with Torontos Phil Kessel for the NHL scoring lead with 32 points.
Giroux leads the Flyers with 13 power-play points (five goals, eight assists). Linemate Scott Hartnell has seven power-play points (six goals). Giroux said the biggest difference is Jagrs return.
Hes got a great shot and he brings a lot to this team, Giroux said. To have Jags back in this lineup means a lot.
The Coyotes had the third-best penalty killing unit in the league and the Flyers scored twice on them in three attempts.
Other guys have had to step up without Pronger, Laviolette said. What we had on the road was an opportunity and even here to work on it and practice it, and get comfortable with it and make mistakes and get movement and some continuity which has been difficult because of the injuries.
Were in a stretch of games where there wasnt a lot of practice time and when there was, we werent sure who was in the lineup, who was coming and going based on injuries.
Laviolette believes practice time is a key.
Both Andrej Meszaros and Danny Briere missed practice today (see blog post). Because of that, Girouxs unit took most of the work today and Laviolette plans to work Brieres unit on Tuesday in practice.
Briere is second on the Flyers in power play points with nine points (one goal, eight assists).
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org