Blame the fans? Flyers' PP not the same at home

Blame the fans? Flyers' PP not the same at home

April 22, 2014, 10:15 am
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The Flyers are 10.1 percent worse on the power play at Wells Fargo Center than they are on the road. (USA Today Images)

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Flyers vs. Rangers
(Series tied 1-1)

Game 1 at NYR: 4-1 Rangers
Game 2 at NYR: 4-2 Flyers
Game 3 at PHI: Tues., April 22, 8 p.m., CSN
Game 4 at PHI: Fri., April 25, 7 p.m., CSN
Game 5 at NYR: Sun., April 27, 12 p.m., NBC
*Game 6 at PHI: Tues., April 29, TBA, CSN
*Game 7 at NYR: Wed., April 30, TBA, CSN

*If necessary

Two games into their playoff series with the New York Rangers, the Flyers find themselves sitting atop the NHL with the No. 1 power play. They've scored on two of their four man advantages.

“Two goals? 50 percent? That’s not bad,” offered Jakub Voracek. “That means if we get eight shots next game, we’re going to get four goals.”

The success hasn't come as a surprise, because the first two playoff games were at Madison Square Garden – on the road.

For all but 2½ months this season, the Flyers had the top road power play in the NHL and finished No. 1, scoring 34 goals on 135 chances (25.2 percent).

Overall, they were eighth in power play efficiency at 19.7 percent.

Their biggest struggles have been at Wells Fargo Center, not just this season but even last, as well. For whatever reason, the Flyers are brutal with the man advantage at home, checking in at 15.1 percent, among the five worst teams in the league.

Imagine what kind of power play the Flyers would have if they could just add another five percent of efficiency playing at home. Imagine what the difference might be in a long playoff series.

“It’s a little harder when 18,000 people yell, ‘shoot,’ after 20 seconds on the power play,” Voracek said, amid laughter from the media.

“No, just kidding. I don’t know. I don’t think we were moving the puck badly. Just sometimes you aren’t so good on the power play and the puck doesn’t go in like on the road.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube and power play boss Joey Mullen would like to see things even out a bit more beginning Tuesday night, when Game 3 unfolds in South Philly. The series is tied, 1-1.

Team captain Claude Giroux has said this many times about the power play, and he’s dead on: “The fans get on us pretty hard at home.”

That’s because the Flyers try to get too perfect, looking for the best shot or best lane for a pass instead of putting pucks on net and taking chances on rebounds like they do on the road -- when no one is yelling at them.

“We have to be patient,” Giroux said. “We forget to stick with what we do. We’re a patient power play and we wait for opportunities. We can’t rush it. We need to go back and play our power play.”

The top unit with Giroux, Voracek, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Kimmo Timonen doesn’t change very often, if at all. Same personnel, different results.

“Our unit [has] played together two-and-a-half to three years,” Voracek said. “We all know what we've got do to be successful. Just sometimes on the ice, you see things differently than from upstairs. Sometimes you see the extra lane.”

Or make the unnecessary extra pass -- that triggers fans to boo at home -- instead of a taking a shot.

Berube himself has been quizzed many times why there is such a disparity between the power play on the road and in Philadelphia.

The simple answer, which has across-the-board significance to many NHL clubs, is that teams tend to perform for the home fans and feel a need to entertain. The urge to be your best is greater on home ice.

“It comes down to patience, at times,” Berube said. “When you are at home, there is more pressure to perform with fans and all. We've got to make sure we are being simple first of all and not forcing things.”

The Flyers gave up a league-high 11 shorthanded goals this season -- five on home ice.

“You've got some fast penalty killers who can go the other way,” Berube said. “We've got to be smart and shoot the hockey puck and get it through.”

Which the Flyers did in Game 2 after failing in Game 1.

“We can't allow [Dan] Girardi, [Ryan] McDonagh, [Marc] Staal to constantly block shots,” Berube said. “We need to do a better job of just getting it through. Doesn't have to be a real hard shot, just get it through on net with rebounds. That's important.”

And on home ice, it might be even more important by the series’ end.

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