Philadelphia Flyers: 4 Ways to Improve Their Sputtering Penalty Kill

Michael Pizzutillo@@Mike_PizzutilloCorrespondent IIIFebruary 6, 2013

Philadelphia Flyers: 4 Ways to Improve Their Sputtering Penalty Kill

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled early this season, specifically with their penalty kill, and they have a losing record to show for it.

    Four of the last six Stanley Cup champions have ranked eighth or higher overall on the penalty kill (via NHL), and with the Flyers currently ranked 24th—a championship dream is rapidly thinning. 

    Coach Peter Laviolette explained earlier in the season, the Flyers need to be better on special teams and the team will be working on it (via CSN). Philadelphia has shown life, as of late, but they still lack consistency from game-to-game.

    Here are four ways the Flyers can improve their sputtering penalty kill.

Limit Penalties

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    The most obvious method to correcting the Flyers' penalty kill woes is to not commit penalties.

    Currently, the Flyers hold the most penalty minutes in the NHL (via ESPN), and that is not helping the team's cause on the kill. Opponents continuously have a man-advantage, while Philadelphia is left scrambling.

    In a shortened season, all mistakes are magnified and taking a toll on the players and their bodies. The Flyers must become more disciplined on the ice and cut down on penalties.

Aggressive Style

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    During the kill, the Flyers must improve in the neutral zone and attack the puck handler. 

    If the penalty kill line—specifically the forwards—can apply more pressure in the neutral zone or force their opponents to take straight shots, it will largely benefit Bryz and the team. Playing a more aggressive penalty kill could also lead opponents to passing earlier than intended, resulting in a potential bad decision or takeaway. 

    In the end, the Flyers must attack their opponents with fierce checking and rush the puck handler to survive the disadvantage.

Bryzgalov Stays Hot

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    Ilya Bryzgalov has impressed both the fans and his critics this season. He has also been the one constant on a team full on inconsistencies. 

    Goaltenders are the most important player on the penalty kill—conducting their teammates and positioning themselves on every power-play rush.

    Bryz has done his part.

    As mentioned earlier, Bryzgalov is an excellent goalie at straight shots. The less he moves side-to-side, the better his chances are making the save. This may be the case with every goalie, but for Bryz it's particularly true. 

    With the help of an aggressive penalty kill, the team can limit easy goals and force the opposition to play to their goalie's advantage. As for Bryzgalov, he must continue his solid play in the net and not be discouraged by the Flyers' penalties and mistakes.

Hustle and Heart

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    This may sound like a cheesy '70s album title, but these intangibles are the most important element on the penalty kill.

    Every player in the NHL is facing a brutal 48 games in 99 days schedule—testing mental and physical toughness. If the Flyers want to regain their position as a top-tier team, they must show a little more hustle and heart, especially on the kill.

    And if the Flyers keep committing mental mistakes and continuously put themselves at a disadvantage, they better have the heart to make up for the penalties. The coaches, fans and players themselves should expect nothing less.