Philadelphia Flyers Take Penalty Killing to a New Level

R LSenior Analyst IFebruary 19, 2009

Penalties can make or break a game. No matter how often you practice the drills, you are bound to give up a powerplay goal here and there. An extra attacker is just too much to handle at times, and it's human nature for fatigue to kick in.

With the NHL prioritizing more offense and limiting obstruction, never has the job of penalty killers been more challenging. Rule 76.2 was introduced this past off-season, and it states that the first faceoff of a powerplay will take place in the defending team's zone.

It threw away the advantage of touching the puck away from your end and creating a faceoff elsewhere. Last season, just four teams scored on more than 20 percent of their powerplay opportunities.

As of today, 10 teams have converted on the man-advantage with a 20-plus percent efficiency. Clearly, Rule 76.2 is paying extreme dividends to the team with five players on the ice.

There's one team that doesn't seem to be buying into the philosophy of being at a disadvantage in these situations, and that's the Philadelphia Flyers. Top players want to be on the ice in all key moments.

Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Jeff Carter have all come to love playing shorthanded. No team in the league has shown more potential while a man down than the Flyers have.

Not only do they sit sixth in penalty-killing percentage, they have converted 14 shorthanded goals. We are still waiting on the first player to catch them napping during a powerplay this year. That's right, the Flyers haven't conceded a shorty to this day of the season.

Gagne and Carter each have four shorthanded tallies, while Richards has five. Since the lockout, only five 3-on-5 goals have occurred. Three of those belong to Mike Richards, and that's an NHL record.

His victims were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and most recently, the New York Rangers last Sunday. What ever happened to the days when a two-man advantage was considered a definite goal for the powerplay unit?

One stick-check or blocked shot, and the Flyers could be off in full-flight with an odd-man rush.

"If there's a turnover, we look to go," Carter says.

And go they do. While many defenders will look to ice the puck, in Philadelphia, they look for the stretch-pass. Rarely will you see this group lay back and wait for something to happen.

Each player moves his feet well and forces the issue. Why let the other team dictate the play?

After all, the best defense is a good offense.