Throughout 41 games this season, the feeling is that the powerplay and penalty kill has only improved under the tutelage of Alain Vigneault and company. It was only last season when the words “Peco Powerplay” lost its meaning. Timely powerplay goals in close games have provided the extra spark to steal victories in overtime periods or shootouts. On the other side of that coin, the penalty kill has stopped teams from being as opportunistic. Let’s take out the microscope and peruse the special teams under Vigneault in comparison to Hakstol’s regime.
Philadelphia Flyers Powerplay – Alain Vigneault
In the 2019-2020 regular season, Alain Vigneault’s powerplay system implemented with the Philadelphia Flyers has been an improvement. Of 139 powerplays, 28 powerplay goals have been converted. In the back of many fans’ minds is that the team is susceptible to giving up short-handed goals. Only four have been surrendered. The powerplay is converting 20.1% of the time, which is good for 13th in the NHL, fronted by Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov (each has 13 points on the powerplay this season.)
Looking at percentages, the best game that the Philadelphia Flyers had on the powerplay was against the Winnipeg Jets, going 100% on the powerplay. They converted their only powerplay that night. In a game with more than one powerplay, the Flyers were 60% against the Buffalo Sabres, scoring on three-of-five. The worst powerplay performance of Alain Vigneault’s tenure as Philadelphia’s head coach was against the Montreal Canadiens. On November 7th, 2019, the Flyers didn’t convert at all on six opportunities.
Philadelphia Flyers Powerplay – Dave Hakstol
Dave Hakstol’s powerplay wasn’t as aggressive as Alain Vigneault’s simply because of the stark contrast in the coaching styles. With fewer powerplay opportunities, there is an opportunity to boost the conversion percentage. In Hakstol’s first 41 games of the 2018-2019 regular season, there were 122 powerplay attempts with 17 goals. That drop off in percentage is down to 13.9% while surrendering two more shorthanded goals than Vigneault. The biggest contributor to Hakstol’s powerplay was Claude Giroux, who finished with 23 points on the powerplay.
Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers did convert 100% of their powerplay opportunities once. That was in the 73rd game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens. It took Alain Vigneault 33 games to accomplish that feat. The most impressive powerplay performance under Dave Hakstol was against the Edmonton Oilers in game 52, converting four of five powerplay opportunities; 80%. Hakstol’s worst powerplay performance was also against the Oilers in game 30, not converting at all on five chances.
Philadelphia Flyers Penalty Kill – Alain Vigneault
Alain Vigneault’s penalty kill is usually the more impressive special team on the ice. It’s surprising that they rank 14th in the NHL. The penalty kill has been spearheaded by forwards Kevin Hayes, Claude Giroux, and Morgan Frost. So far, the Philadelphia Flyers have been called for 121 penalties and have only allowed 23 goals. That’s a penalty kill that neutralizes 81% of opponent powerplays. In 41 games, the Flyers have scored two shorthanded goals.
Three times this season, an opponent has had five powerplay opportunities and were blanked on conversions. Those teams were the New Jersey Devils, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Minnesota Wild. The only loss there is against the Wild. The worst performance under Alain Vigneault on the penalty kill was recently against the Los Angeles Kings. On the last day of 2019, the Kings converted all three of their powerplays.
Philadelphia Flyers Penalty Kill – Dave Hakstol
Let’s be honest, the penalty kill wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the worst in 2018-2019. The strangest part is that the main contributors to the penalty kill under Dave Hakstol were Scott Laughton and Andrew McDonald. Yes, that Andrew McDonald. It’s best that he was left behind in early 2019.
The Philadelphia Flyers were penalized 131 times in the first 41 games last season, surrendering 33 goals. That’s a penalty kill that stopped 74.9% of opponent powerplays. Dave Hakstol can hold that his penalty kill scored three shorthanded goals in the first 41 games. That’s really about it. While the penalty kill wasn’t poorly disciplined, they just couldn’t get the job done.
Alain Vigneault > Dave Hakstol
With a lot of hockey left to play, I put my faith in Alain Vigneault. The powerplay unit across the board has only improved under him. The only thing that Dave Hakstol did better than Vigneault was constructing ways to score shorthanded. Somewhere lost in Hakstol’s statistics is the goalie carousel from the 2018-2019 regular season. In 2019-2020, it is evident that Vigneault brings a more disciplined brand to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre