Flyers cling to playoff hopes, but Penalty Kill will decide their fate

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The Philadelphia Flyers seemed to have the pedal to the metal right before the All-Star break. They were winners of 4 out of their last 5 contests before the break. Since returning from break they haven’t been the same team. Unfortunately, all that great momentum they once had before the break began is a thing of the past. Since returning from break they’re 0-2-1, and their penalty kill is non-existent. As a matter of fact to put it nicely their penalty kill is atrocious. Yes, they didn’t give up a power play goal to the lowly Ottawa Senators on Saturday, but it’s still bad.

In just three games since returning from break. The Flyers have given up a whopping 4 power play goals. Let’s think about this again, that’s an average of more than one per game. That’s just not good enough to make the playoffs. Playoff caliber teams are usually within the top ten-middle of the pack in penalty killing stats. The Flyers are near the bottom as they rank 29th in the league while being a man down, with a penalty killing rate of 74.21%. Unfortunately, that’s well below the league average of 80.16%.

Everyone thought that the Flyers penalty kill would be far better this year, than last season. However, it’s been anything but better, as a matter of fact it has gotten worse. The Flyers had a penalty killing rate of 79.6%, with a league average rate of 80.90% for 2016-17 season. These stats were good enough for the early twenties, not near dead last in the league like this years. This years numbers are a significant drop off from last season.

The orange and black in 2016-17, gave up a whopping 50 goals while being a man down. You think those stats were bad? How about this season they have given up 41 big ones, and they still have 30 games left to play in the season. Ian Lapierre, much widely known as, “Lappy,” throughout the sport of hockey, is the PK coach for the Flyers. He’s a fan favorite in Philadelphia, as Lapierre was a gritty player that never took a shift off. Lapierre will always be remembered for taking a puck of his face while blocking a shot against the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs, thus ending his career. Of course, he doesn’t shoulder all the blame, but these numbers don’t do him or the team justice.

The Flyers playoffs hope lie in the fate of their penalty kill. They could really become contenders if this stat improved. Moreover, there are multiple solutions to improving the PK. First, call up Oskar Lindblom from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He has been a solid penalty killer for the Phantoms this season.

Secondly, become more aggressive on the PK. I love to see the Flyers aggressiveness while being a man down, as opposed to the relaxed not attacking the opponent style. Having an aggressive PK makes the players have to faster, split second decisions with what to do with the puck. The relaxed style allows the opponents to become more relaxed with the puck, while allowing the plays to develop in a timely manner.

Lastly, General Manager Ron Hextall could make a trade for either Michael Grabner of the New York Rangers or Jean- Gabriel Pageau of the lowly Ottawa Senators. Who knows if the Rangers would make a deal within the division, but Grabner has great hands on top of being an excellent penalty killer. For the season, Grabner has tallied 21 goals, and 6 assists in 51 games played.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a young playmaker that is only 25 years old. His current cap hit is $660,000, and currently plays for the lowly Ottawa Senators. At this point many people are expendable in Ottawa (43 points), and at the right price the Flyers would receive an excellent penalty killer at the forward position. For the season, Pageau has tallied 7 goals, and 9 assists for a total of 16 points in 46 games played.

The Flyers have to do something in order to make their penalty killing situation better here in Philadelphia. “Lappy,” wouldn’t be dismissed until years end, so that wasn’t an option at this point in the season. If the Flyers did make the right move to improve the PK by the trade deadline on February 26. It could not only save, “Lappy,” from being terminated at years end, but it could really make the orange and black into contenders for the final stretch run. One thing is certain Flyers fans, the future is bright in Flyer land.

 

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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