A new season means ‘a new hope’ for Flyers PK unit

Philadelphia Flyers @ NY Islanders
New York Islanders Oliver Wahlstrom (54) battles Philadelphia Flyers Travis Sanheim (6) for control of the puck during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019 in Uniondale, N.Y. (Joseph D. Sullivan/Newsday via AP)

A new season of Flyers hockey is upon us, and with that brings some fresh new faces to the helm. Mike Yeo now leads a once stagnant penalty killing unit.

Yeo underwhelmed for the Minnesota Wild, and ST. Louis Blues. However, Yeo has turned a bad Flyers penalty killing unit, into a force to be reckoned with in the pre-season. The hope is to carry this over into the regular season, which opens Friday, October 4 in Prague.

The transformation of this unit throughout the pre-season has been night and day from last season. Yeo has had this unit clicking on all cylinders from day one of training camp, and it has filtered into the pre-season. They finally look like a cohesive unit while short-handed. Moreover, with the likes of Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes being threats while short-handed. It sure is a breath of fresh air these days at Flyers camp.

For the pre-season, the orange and black have killed off 17 of 18 power plays against, which is good enough for a 94.4% success rate. These are pretty impressive numbers, in just a matter of one month of Yeo being on the job. The Flyers are attacking their opponents, thus making it more difficult for their opponents to enter the offensive zone, but Chuck Fletcher’s off-season additions of Justin Braun and Hayes, are also paying some huge dividends.

Something has to give to make this a successful penalty killing unit this season. For the past few seasons, under Former Head Coach Dave Hakstol and Ian Laperriere, the Flyers have been bottom feeders in this category. This makes the team inconsistent, and downright beatable on a nightly basis. For instance, last season the Flyers PK was ranked 26th in the league, with a PK percentage of 78.48%. “Playoffs, did someone say playoffs,” while taking a page out of Jim Mora’s playbook. This young Flyers team was inconsistent, and with the PK being this bad there was no way they could possibly make the playoffs. The league average in this category last season was 80.22%.

Make no mistake about it, having a reliable netminder in Carter Hart makes a world of difference. He has been flat-out awesome in the pre-season, while backstopping 56 out of 57 saves, for a whopping .982 Save Percentage. Your goaltender has to be the best penalty killer, and Hart sure has been that this pre-season. Hart looks comfortable under the direction of Alain Vigneault and Yeo.

If the Flyers want to contend for the division, then they have to improve the penalty kill. With this unit under Yeo’s direction, they should be top 10 in the league in this category. Having a successful penalty Kill would also help this team become consistent, and that has been anything but for the past four or so seasons. Things can only improve this season.

Mandatory Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan/Newsday via AP