Lacking discipline, Flyers must become more opportunistic

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Flyers' Kevin Hayes
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 25: Philadelphia Flyers Center Kevin Hayes (13) is congratulated by teammates for scoring a goal as he skates by the bench during the third period of the National Hockey League game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on November 25, 2022, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Special teams can make or break a team. Scoring a powerplay goal helps steal a victory. Limiting mistakes and playing with discipline is a recipe for keeping games close as the Philadelphia Flyers build. Without the outstanding talent other teams possess, John Tortorella ices a lineup that has to play perfectly to compete. They need to be opportunistic.

With four powerplay goals in three games, the Flyers are on their hottest run since scoring four in four games to begin the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the penalty kill allowed four goals in the last five games, their second-worst slump. They’re allowing opponents 3.3 powerplay chances while drawing 2.8 penalties through their recent stretch of ten games.

What is the record for Philadelphia over the last ten games? It’s 2-6-2.

In seven of those games, special teams were an outlier that either helped or dashed the hopes of a Flyers victory.

A few players rejoined the lineup during that stretch, aiding the special teams. Tony DeAngelo, Travis Konecny, and James van Riemsdyk returned to help the powerplay. Scott Laughton returned to the penalty kill. Tortorella is coaching the team, and it is apparent that they’re improving upon their structure but lack the talent to remain steady against formidable opponents.

Lately, the Powerplay…

Over a ten-game stretch dating back to November 19th, 2022, Philadelphia only began to score on the powerplay since December 3rd, 2022. They’re on a three-game scoring streak with the man advantage.

Tortorella referenced the Flyers as a team who needs to score by committee. He’s shuffled the lineup to accentuate the strengths of his lineup. An example is Kevin Hayes deviating from C to LW. He is freer to play with the puck, resulting in the best start of Hayes’ NHL career. Last night, he tallied his third powerplay point, one in each game of the current streak.

Konecny returned to the lineup versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. He found his footing, scoring the lone goal for Philadelphia in the third period. Last night, Konecny notched his second powerplay point in the three-game run.

DeAngelo, over this three-game powerplay scoring stretch, is responsible for a goal and an assist, like Konecny.

It isn’t much of a mystery in terms of the powerplay. When producing, they’re streaky. Structurally, in addition to puck movement, the Flyers seem smoother as they get healthier. Ranked 29th in the NHL, they’re at least trending toward improvement, especially after van Riemsdyk returned.

Lately, the Penalty Kill…

Not all of the struggles stem from the penalty kill. After all, someone commits an even-strength error to put the team at risk of being out-manned in their zone. In this particular element of the game, Philadelphia is not excelling. The team’s penalty kill is ranked 23rd in the NHL. With both special team units ranking in the bottom third of the league, it stresses how precise their even-strength hockey must be.

Between November 26th, 2022, on Long Island against the New York Islanders, the Flyers allowed two goals while shorthanded. Including last night’s effort, opponents have scored six powerplay goals in as many games.

Parise did it twice in one game to Philadelphia. He made Ivan Provorov and Nicholas Deslauriers pay for cross-checking penalties. Without those powerplay goals, the game heads to overtime and helps both clubs in the standings.

Dobson began the scoring, but Travis Sanheim responded with a shorthanded equalizer. That spark from the penalty kill directly correlated towards a victory, inspiring confidence.

  • Nick Paul; vs. TBL

Similarly to Dobson, Paul began the scoring with a powerplay goal. Instead, he followed with an even-strength insurance goal in the second period. The Tampa Bay Lightning led 4-0 before Konecny scored in the third.

Again, the opposing team began a game with a powerplay goal. A free play, Tortorella would call it. Unlike any other game in 2022-2023, the Flyers collected two powerplay goals in response. Owen Tippett jumped into the stat sheet, and DeAngelo got back on track.

Breaking a trend, Philadelphia beat an opponent to the first powerplay goal. Hayes put the Washington Capitals behind, 1-0 before Oshie blasted a one-timer equalizer. After that powerplay marker by Oshie, the Flyers didn’t commit another penalty. Had they begun with the same discipline, the outcome could be a lot different.

“Four penalties. Four penalties in the first twenty-five minutes of the game. Yeah, offensive zone penalties, neutral zone penalties, we’re still in the game.”

John Tortorella; 12/7/2022

Some penalties come with being a more physical, hard team. Recently, Tortorella stressed his lineup needs to get a better grasp on understanding momentum. Four times during the ten-game losing streak, Philadelphia allowed multiple powerplay goals. They’re improving, but not enough to combat three to four shorthanded opportunities on a nightly basis.

With a little more discipline, it’s not impossible to believe the Flyers could’ve won four of their last six.

Looking Ahead

Tortorella cannot wait to take the show on the road tomorrow: 

“Going on the road, in this type of trip, going out west, will be good for our team. We’re playing some really good hockey teams. We’ve been here a while. It’s been enough; five games at home, it’s time to get on the road.”

John Tortorella; 12/7/2022

Playing with discipline while being opportunistic is the balance Philadelphia must find. They’ll visit the Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, and New Jersey Devils. 

Of them, the Avalanche feature the only powerplay among the top half of the NHL. They’re without Nathan MacKinnon but represent the best extra-man attack in the league. The Devils maintain an elite penalty kill, but Konecny solved that puzzle once in the recent 3-2 loss. Akira Schmid is undefeated in the crease, including the win over the Flyers.

Additionally, Cam York was recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Egor Zamula will play a ton of minutes while Philadelphia is on the road. He’ll be hungry to make an impression if he gets onto the ice, formerly receiving an extended look on the powerplay a season ago.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

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