Flyers' power play struggles mightily
Kimmo Timonen and the Flyers went 1 for 5 on the power play in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Rangers. (AP)
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Flyers vs. Rangers
(Rangers lead series, 3-2)
Game 1 at NYR: 4-1 Rangers
Game 2 at NYR: 4-2 Flyers
Game 3 at PHI: 4-1 Rangers
Game 4 at PHI: 2-1 Flyers
Game 5 at NYR: 4-2 Rangers
Game 6 at PHI: Tues., April 29, 7:30 p.m., CSN
*Game 7 at NYR: Wed., April 30, TBA, CSN
NEW YORK – Special teams always play a decisive role during a playoff series.
Through five games of this Metropolitan Division semifinal series between the Flyers and Rangers, it is New York’s penalty kill that is having an impact.
The Flyers had five power plays during Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Madison Square Garden in Game 5 (see story). They scored just one goal and had five shots, although the actual shot count should have read four.
Regardless, the Rangers, who had the third-best penalty kill in the NHL this season, are winning the special teams’ battle.
“I felt the penalty kill was really good today,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “It was a really strong performance and we are going to need it moving forward. It’s a big part of winning right now.”
The Flyers' lone power-play goal came from Vinny Lecavalier at the end of the second period, cutting the Flyers' deficit to 3-1.
Problem was, four of the Flyers' five power plays were disjointed, especially their first two when the game was scoreless. A goal could have made all the difference in the game. And in hindsight, we may come back to say it would have made all the difference in the series.
Poor breakouts. Blown entries. Turnovers. Clearing passes by the Rangers. Missed passes by area-code distance by the Flyers.
“We needed to be better, obviously,” said Scott Hartnell, who was a minus-2 in the game. “We kind of had the feeling that would come bite us in the ass after the game. Our first unit’s been struggling and it’s kind of one-and-done.
“We’ve lost some key battles in the corner. But we’ve got to hit the delete button on this one. Refocus. I think that everyone [knew] at the beginning of the series it probably was going to go
Coach Craig Berube said the Flyers' power-play execution wasn’t there. Same thing happened in Game 3 when the Flyers went 0 for 5 and were thumped 4-1 at Wells Fargo Center.
Blocked shots -- 10 on the power play -- were an issue that game. Blocked shots weren’t an issue today. It was execution.
“They do a good job on their PK,” Lecavalier said. “They block a lot of shots, but we watched a lot of video, and that is not what it was today. It was quick execution plays that [weren't] there -- passes a little off. Sometimes you get quick two or three [passes] that get a goal, but they [were] off and we couldn’t get that.”
The Flyers have not made things hard enough on Lundqvist this entire series. And five shots on five power plays doesn’t cut it against a goalie like him.
“We’re spending a lot of energy going back for the puck, trying to break it in," Scott Hartnell said. "You do that twice when you get a couple power plays back-to-back, you’re jump isn’t quite there. I think we’ve had a great power play the whole year.
“We’ve always had chances. We’ve always had zone time. We just gotta simple things up. Get pucks to the net. Get after Kimmo [Timonen] to get shots. Have everyone crash the net. We had a couple chances, but we’ve got to find ways to put it to the back of the net.”
Point shots. Timonen had zero in this game. It all starts with a point drive, especially when the Rangers are so good at taking away shots between the dots with their sticks.
“We moved the puck well,” Claude Giroux said. “We had our chances. We’ve got to execute and put it on net. Bottom line. That’s what the power play’s there for: To put the puck in the net. It doesn’t matter how pretty it is. It’s got to be in the net.”
Berube said his team lost the game in the first period with blown opportunities and the power play was foremost among them.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault felt his club’s early work on the penalty kill was decisive, as well.
“Each game, obviously, plays itself out differently," he said. "Today, there wasn’t a lot of room in the first period. We took two penalties that we had to kill off. I thought that was real important for us and we got a little bit of momentum off that.”
The Rangers ended up 4 for 5 on the penalty kill.
A major reason why they won Game 5 and the Flyers lost it.