The Flyers’ road to the playoffs was an absolute rollercoaster from start to finish. But through every stunning win and gut-wrenching loss, one constant remained – their consistency on special teams.
At the time the season was suspended, the Flyers ranked 7th in the East (14th in the NHL) when it came to power-play percentage, but it was the penalty kill that became their bread and butter. Killing a total of 81.6% of their 240 shorthanded windows, the Flyers really ramped up as the season went on. In fact, they shut down 100% of opposing power plays in 9 of their last 14 games.
With a long break behind them, there was some natural rust expected on special teams when the Flyers clashed with their most bitter rivals on Tuesday, but it didn’t take long. The special team’s group saw off all 3 shorthanded periods in the game and while failing to score on the powerplay, through everything they could at the Pens, and created some dangerous opportunities. Alain Vigneault spoke about the intensity on special teams after the game.
I thought for the most part, it was what I expected. I thought the intensity was good. I believe the execution will get better. The game in conditioning will get better. We have three important games in from of us. We’re going to play them obviously to win, but also to prepare our team for that first real playoff game. Still a lot of work ahead of us. We’re going to make some decisions that are going to need to be made. These next three games are going to help us make those decisions.
While they could do with some more consistent firepower during the powerplay, their relentless penalty kill is back like it never lift, which is fantastic news given that they’ll go into a string of one-off games to decide playoff seeding. How they fared against those three teams is just as interesting.
Against the Bruins, whom they’ll face on Saturday, the Flyers killed off 5/7 penalties across three games, 15/17 in four games against the Caps, and 9/9 against the Lightning. On the powerplay, the Flyers scored on 4/16 opportunities against the Caps, 1/8 against the Bruins, and 2/8 against the Lightning.
If the Flyers can bring the same intensity as they did on Tuesday when it comes to special teams, it could well be the X-factor in shifting momentum during key moments, elevating the Flyers to a higher seeding.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre
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