Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Ways to Continue Improved Power Play
The Philadelphia Flyers' power play has endured its highs and lows, similar to the club's entire season. Recently, Philly has played much-improved hockey compared to earlier in the season and one main reason has been the strong special-teams play.
At the end of January, Courier Post's David Isaac reported the Flyers were 5-37 (13.5 percent) on the power play and searching for answers. I even wrote an article describing the reasons for the team's power-play woes.
Everyone was panicking.
In order for the Flyers to successfully turn their season around, they must continue to be effective on the man advantage every game.
Here are five ways the Flyers can continue to flourish on the power play.
1. Bodies in Front of the Net
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The Flyers must maintain pressure in front of the goal cage.
Players like Wayne Simmonds and even Mike Knuble can post in front the goalie—shielding his vision, waiting for a redirection or pounce quickly on a rebound.
This is how the power play is won.
The team's sniper, Danny Briere, is also a master on the man advantage. Briere, being physically smaller, tends to hide underneath defenders, positioning him perfectly for rebounds or quick passes.
These players must continue to dominate around the net, creating second and third chances on every power play.
2. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
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The bodies are useless in front of the goalie if no one shoots the puck.
Currently, the Flyers rank 23rd in total average shots per game, which directly feeds into the team's power-player efficiency. There is a fine line between finesse passing and being "pass happy," and currently the club is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen is extremely vital on power play conversions—serving as the club's point man—and must attempt more slap shots on goal. Now this is easier said than done, but these shots will benefit the Flyers' banging in front of the net.
Forwards Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Brayden Schenn must also consistently shoot on special teams. These players are blessed with lethal wrist and slap shots and must not be hesitant to pull the trigger.
One less pass could equal one more goal.
3. Precise Cross-Ice Passing
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Yes, I did just say less passing and more shots, but players still need to be set up before unleashing fury on the goalie.
During the power play, an "east/west" passing attack can be very advantageous when executed properly, and this is where captain Claude Giroux can work his magic.
Giroux has an uncanny ability to make precision passes, especially on the man advantage. He is well aware of his teammates' ice position and capable to make the impossible pass seem easy.
Another aspect Giroux brings on special teams is his wicked, corner slap shot. We've all seen G's stick—wound up like an old rotary phone—waiting for a one-time blast in the upper net. This all begins with the cross-ice pass.
Defenders will most likely shift to a zone where the puck is currently held, as well as goalies, who tend to keep their eyes on that zone. Quick and precise cross-ice passes to Giroux or Briere can beat many defenders and goaltenders with ease, as it is difficult to react to the rapid change of direction.
If the Flyers are going to opt for the pass, it must be perfect.
4. Understand the Opposition
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Quick decisions when entering the opponent's zone can make a world of difference and the Flyers must understand their opponent's penalty-kill strengths and weaknesses.
If the Flyers are facing heavy pressure in the neutral zone, a "dump and chase" strategy may be beneficial. The club can fire the puck down in the corner and chase it down with an odd-man rush.
Now, if opponents decide to sit back and let Philly enter the zone, the team should be able to fire off quick shots at the net or work patient cross-ice passes to defeat the zone defense.
With either strategy, Philadelphia must quickly make its decisions to prevent an offside penalty or giveaway—wasting a power-play opportunity. Too often the Flyers play into the strengths of their opposition and show confusion at the blue line or turn the puck over without a shot on net.
Understanding your opponent seems to be a given and the Flyers have come a long way from their early-season struggles. Philly must now continue its improved decision-making while playing to its strengths.
5. Converting on the Road
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While the Flyers have drastically improved their overall record and power-play ranking, the team is still struggling on the road.
Philadelphia has converted a measly 8-of-48 (16.7 percent) of its road power plays and 5-of-20 (25.0 percent) while at home. These stats can easily be contributed to the Flyers' home and road win/loss record. Currently, the Flyers own a 4-1-1 record at home and a 3-8 record on the road (via NHL.com).
Needless to say, the numbers don't lie.
Improvement on the road is another key element to turning around the season, and it should begin with the power play. If Monday's blowout victory against the New York Islanders is any indication of the team's direction, then Philly is heading in the right direction.
The Flyers must continue their momentum and snag key road wins, as only 31 games remain in this short season.