Over the past few years, special teams have been the Flyers’ weakness, and that’s no secret. As of late, we’re learning that isn’t necessarily the case anymore, at least with one special teams unit.
The Flyers are coming off of a season where their special teams finished in the bottom third of the league. It’s not like they started out strong and tanked from then on out either. The special teams were horrendous throughout the entire season. The end result just magnified how bad they really were.
This season tells a different story. While under a new regime, the Flyers special teams have improved leaps and bounds from last year. However, sustained success on one of the special teams units doesn’t seem to be the case, as now each unit is heading in a different direction.
At the beginning of the season, fans were given glimpses of hope regarding the powerplay. Holding a 30% conversion rate through the first five games of the season, the man advantage was looking good. 10 games later, and the effectiveness rate dropped almost 10%. 10 games after that mark, and the powerplay is sub-20%. Nine games after that, and here we are, sitting at 19th in the league with a 17.86% conversion rate.
Sure, this is an improvement from where they were this time last year. After 34 games last season, the Flyers were converting on 12.6% of their man-advantages, good for a tie at 29th in the league. At the end of the season, the unit improved. They jumped up six spots to 23rd and were converting on 17% of their chances on the powerplay.
If last year’s trend continues, the Flyers powerplay is due for a shot in the arm. If they improve by roughly five percent, much like last year, that could put them at almost 23% on the year, which would be good for sixth in the league at this point.
The fact remains that the Flyers have converted three of their last 26 man-advantages in the past ten games. That’s good for 11.54%. That won’t cut it. The powerplay is trending in the wrong direction, and Michel Therrien needs to figure out how to get the unit back on track.
The penalty kill, on the other hand, is much improved and performing very well at the moment. Discount the game against Winnipeg where they gave up three powerplay goals in five opportunities for the Jets, and the Flyers are killing off just about everything they’re presented with.
The start of the season saw them kill off 10 of 11 penalties in their first four games. The next game, they failed to kill off two penalties and their total dropped to 76.92% on the year. Four games later, and the Flyers were killing off over 80% of the penalties they committed.
Currently, the Flyers are sitting at eighth in the NHL in killing penalties. They are killing them off at an 83.33% rate, and haven’t dipped down past 83% since early November. It’s a far-cry from where they were last year at this time. After 34 games last season, the Flyers were sitting at 28th in the league, killing off 78.63% of the man advantages they faced. They ended the year at 26th, killing off 78.4% of their total penalties.
The penalty kill is vastly improved, and that has a lot to do with the personnel and Mike Yeo’s deployment of them. People are being put into the right positions to succeed in Yeo’s PK system, much unlike last year under Dave Hakstol.
If Michel Therien can get things figured out like Yeo, the Flyers special team can be just that, special.
Mandatory Credit – © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports