Lack of power-play success hampering Flyers

Lack of power-play success hampering Flyers

Flyers on their win over the Islanders, beginning of win streak

October 27, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Jakub Voracek and the Flyers, unlike years past, are having trouble producing power-play goals. (AP)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- If you’re still searching for a tangible reason why the Flyers' record is so bloody awful this season, look no further than their power play.

Heading into the final weekend of October, they were nestled into 29th place in the NHL in power-play percentage (8.1 percent).

They are a living example of the movie, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

Which is why they spend a significant amount of time practicing the power play between games and even during morning skates.

Practice makes perfect? Not quite.

“If you think about it,” offered coach Craig Berube, “there are a lot of penalties in the games. Hopefully, for the other team. So a lot of times, half the game is special teams.

“You should practice it -- it’s just as important as anything else. If you don’t practice it, it’s hard to be good at it or focus on it. That’s why we practice it all the time.”

Captain Claude Giroux was asked if he ever gets tired of practicing something in which the club can’t seem to get any better.

“Nah, even if it were going well, it’s good to practice it,” Giroux replied. “Know your options and what you have to do.”

What they may have to do is try some different players. They broke a power-play skid on Saturday (one goal in their last 25 power plays) with a goal from Vinny Lecavalier during their 5-2 rout of the Islanders (see story).

Berube already moved Kimmo Timonen from the first unit to the second for the first time in his Flyer career. Mark Streit is now the lone defenseman on Giroux’s top unit.

“We had a few good looks; we had a few good scoring chances, but I think we can still control the puck a little more,” Streit said.

Translation: It would be nice if we held onto the puck long enough to get a shot, a rebound and a reload before the other team ices the puck.

“There are some positives and some things we can do better,” Streit said. “Both units had some scoring chances, but that’s not enough. We need to get on the board.”

Coming into Sunday, the Flyers are now 4 for 40, sitting at 10 percent.

Here’s something to chew on. Last season (the lockout-shortened campaign), the Flyers finished third overall in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 21.6 percent (37 for 171). Those 37 power-play goals represent 28 percent of the Flyers' overall goal-scoring total (133 goals).

In 2009-10, the Flyers were also third at 21.4 percent. Their 68 power-play goals that season represented 29 percent of their overall offense (236 goals).

It’s no secret that for the last several seasons, the Flyers have struggled to score goals 5-on-5. Their power play has been their refuge from disaster.

Hence, when the power play isn’t producing, this team isn’t scoring.

“That’s probably an area that gives me a little bit of pause,” general manager Paul Holmgren said, acknowledging the Flyers are overly dependent upon their PP-units for goals.

“We’ve got to do better on our power play. We’ve got to be more productive somehow. That, to me, is just from getting shots on net or at the net and going to the net. We have players that can make plays.

“The plays we’re trying to make right now aren’t working, so we’ve got to hammer at the net. I know coaches have talked about that and are working on that and have spent time doing video.

“We have players that can do it and have done it in the past. Sooner or later, you hope they bust through.”

Holmgren says it’s a proven fact that overall goal-scoring is down throughout the NHL. Yet when it comes to power-play efficiency, it’s all about the offense being a step quicker than the defense.

The Islanders -- not the Penguins -- have the league’s best power-play unit, rolling along at 30 percent efficiency. The Flyers shut them down three times on Saturday.

The Isles move the puck quickly around the ice, they get point shots, rebounds and even goals. Except for this game against the Flyers.

Matt Moulson had five power-play goals in his first 10 games. John Tavares and Frans Nielsen had a combined 11 power-play assists over that same span.

Berube wants more shots that actually reach the net, more traffic in front and more rebounds.

“I’m looking for shots and momentum,” he said. “You always say that the power play has got to score. You have to go out and create momentum for your team.

“You can do that by getting set up, getting shots through and getting the puck back. It’s about puck recovery and getting shots through. When you get too fancy, you forget about shooting, and before you know, your power play goes.”

When you don’t get most of the above, it means your power-play units are being out-worked by the penalty killers.

“Get in there, hunt for pucks,” Scott Hartnell said. “If they have two guys, we need four guys working for pucks. Hard work and keeping it simple is the biggest thing I’ve found.

“Get the puck up top, shoot it with two or three guys crashing the net. Sometimes, the simplest play is the best play.”

They can improve on Saturday’s effort ... if they keep practicing it.