Thanks to Laperriere, Flyers shut down Pens' PP

Thanks to Laperriere, Flyers shut down Pens' PP

March 15, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Assistant coach Ian Laperriere (left) had Claude Giroux and the Flyers prepared for the Penguins' top-notch power play, and it paid dividends. (USA Today Images)

If you ask Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ penalty kill was so good against the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday afternoon because of someone who wasn’t even on the ice.

Ex-Flyer-turned-assistant coach Ian Laperriere, according to Couturier, set the Flyers up to succeed against the Penguins’ dangerous power play that’s No. 1 in the league at 24.8 percent (see 10 observations).

“I think Lappy did a great job scouting video,” Couturier said. “And we did the right little things -- getting sticks in the passing lanes and blocking shots. Overall, I think special teams were huge tonight.”

In their 4-0 victory at the Wells Fargo Center (see story), the Flyers held the Penguins’ power play without a goal in five chances. Thanks to Laperriere, the Flyers knew exactly what to do to succeed on the kill, something that went a long way towards their much-needed win.

In fact, not only did the Flyers’ penalty kill silence the Penguins, it helped them on the scoreboard. Matt Read’s shorthanded goal 8:12 in the first period gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead they never looked back from.

“We just didn’t give them much time,” Read said. “Took away their time and put pressure on the puck. I just think our D-men did a great job tonight. They were on their toes, and we were doing the right plays out there -- forcing things and making them force plays they didn’t want to make. That created turnovers, and we had a couple offensive chances on the PK there. We did a very good job overall.”

It wasn’t just the Flyers’ penalty kill that impressed on Saturday. Special teams as a whole were “huge,” according to coach Craig Berube.

The Flyers’ power play found success against the Penguins, a notoriously difficult team to beat. Heading into the game, the Pens’ kill was best in the league. But after Scott Hartnell bested goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 3:50 after the opening faceoff, the Penguins fell into second place (a still impressive 86.8 percent). The Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play (see Instant Replay).

“Special teams were big against them,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “They [were] first in both. Definitely, I think we played a good game. But it’s over with and we have to move on and make sure we play the same way tomorrow.”

The Flyers and Penguins meet again in less than 24 hours, 12:30 p.m. Sunday at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. These home-and-home series can feel like mini playoff series -- especially at this time of the year, and especially between these two teams.

Always a huge key to success in the playoffs? Solid special teams.

“It’s only one game, but we did what we wanted to,” Claude Giroux said. “… they have a lot of key players but were missing a couple, too. We’re pretty happy with our penalty kill and our power play.”

The Flyers hardly have any time to pat themselves on the backs for Saturday’s accomplishments, of course. The Penguins are atop the Metropolitan Division for a reason; it’s no coincidence they’re 17 points ahead of the Flyers.

As such, the Flyers will need to make sure their power play and penalty kill will be ready to go Sunday just as they were in their victory. It won’t be any easier in Pittsburgh.

"Big two points today,” Couturier said. “But we’ve just got to refocus and be ready for tomorrow.”