Alain Vigneault’s system is working and it becomes more and more evident as they continue to progress through the season. The Flyers are playing an up-tempo style of hockey that is exciting to watch. Not only that, they are in constant relentless pursuit of the puck. This makes for a style of hockey that Flyers fans haven’t seen in some time.
The Flyers’ special teams have been where this change is most noticeable. Although the season is young, the improvements on both the penalty kill and the power play have visibly improved.
The Penalty Kill
Last season, the Flyers’ penalty kill was ranked 26th in the league. Flyers’ defenders had a 78.5% success rate. Not a good number. This season, the Flyers are ranked ninth, boasting an 83.9% kill rate. What is so different?
To start, the Flyers have added a more aggressive approach. Gone are the days of the passive box formation. For years we watched as the Flyers would sit back on the PK. The philosophy was to keep the puck to the outside and get sticks in the passing lanes and bodies in the shooting lanes. There were times when this method proved to be efficient but also times that left fans scratching their heads.
Enter Mike Yeo, who decided to go on more of an attacking style PK. The Flyers defenders have put more pressure on the opposition and they are in constant movement; anytime the opposition juggles a pass, a defender is there to jump on it and clear the zone.
In addition to aggression on defense, they are creating scoring chances on the PK. If you look at the game versus the Blue Jackets, Kevin Hayes scored their first short-handed goal of the season. The Flyers also had two unsuccessful breakaways by and one other really good chance by Michael Raffl. Hayes has been known to collect his fair share of short handed goals and giving the PK an offensive upside gives Hayes even more room to succeed in the Orange and Black.
On to the Power Play
The Flyers are converting on the man advantage at 26.3%. In comparison to last season, the Flyers have improved by 9.2%. While they used to sit at 23rd in the NHL, their improved processes have the 2019-20 Flyers ranked 5th.
The most obvious change is that Michel Therien switched Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek; a change that has seen praise and disapproval from Flyers fans. He’s also trusting the younger and newer players more. In his first NHL game, 2018 draftee, Joel Farabee, was given time on the top powerplay unit.
Also an intriguing change, Therien is using the second power-play unit more than fans have seen in the past. Past practice had the top power play unit on the ice for a majority of the 2 minutes. PP2 would get 30 seconds if anytime at all which was hardly enough time to make an impact. This year, PP2 has 6 of the Flyers’ 10 power-play goals with a lot of due credit to Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom.
Moving along with the schedule, tonight’s game is a familiar fight against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins as the Flyers travel to the Steel City to take on their cross-state rivals. The Flyers look to bounce back from the 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Sunday and they will look to their specialty units to continue to help get the job done.