Welcome back to the special teams breakdown you didn’t think you needed, but you’re glad you got it anyway!
This time around, we’re talking the powerplay, and how Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien have turned the unit around. The powerplay was flirting around last place for a majority of the 2018/19 season, and finished close to the basement by year’s end. This year, the narrative has changed.
The powerplay was a source of constant frustration last season. 27 games in, the Flyers had only capitalized on 11 of 79 man advantages. That was good for a 13.9% conversion rate, and 30th out of 31 NHL teams, besting only the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Flyers were bad at getting clear entries into the offensive zone, it’s no secret. They also struggled to ice two competitive powerplay lines. Their top line was the source for a majority of their success, or lack thereof, on the man advantage. Their second unit was near non-existent.
Hakstol and company tried nearly everything under the sun, even a five-forward approach. Five Forward Death Punch was Bad Company. Claude Giroux led the way for powerplay ice time with 3:31 per game. Shayne Gostisbehere (3:28) and Jakub Voracek (3:15) weren’t far behind, while Sean Couturier (3:07) and Wayne Simmonds (3:01) rounded out the top five powerplay personnel in terms of ice time. Out of those five, four were in the top five on the team in PP scoring.
Michel Therrien has seemingly lit a fire under the powerplay. The 23rd ranked unit in 2018/19 is now the 13th ranked unit in the NHL, converting on 19 out of 96 opportunities. The Flyers have had more opportunities on the man advantage, and capitalized on it.
Three of their top five contributors from 2018/19 are still their top contributors this season. Those guys are Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere. Giroux still leads in powerplay ice time, while James van Riemsdyk and Ivan Provorov round out the top five.
Provorov has the most points (4g, 6a, 10pts) on the powerplay, while Giroux trails by only two. Voracek has seven points (2g, 5a) and Gostisbehere has five points (1g, 4a).
Much like the penalty kill, Alain Vigneault has seen significant improvements from his powerplay as well in his first season as head coach for any club he has coached. This is no different. The Flyers are 5.9% better than they were at this point last season. They’re also 2.7% better than how they finished the season. Ranking wise, they’re 17 spots higher than they were at this point last season, and 10 spots higher than they finished the season last year.
Numbers and rankings are subject to change, but the powerplay looks vastly improved from last year, and shows no signs of slowing.
Mandatory Credit – Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports