This post is coming a day later than I anticipated, but a tryptophan-induced coma made forming complete sentences difficult. First off, I just want to give thanks to Micah Warren and Gary Cobb for giving me the opportunity to write for this site. I know that it’s difficult for many here to follow the orange and black when the Eagles are first in the NFC East, but hockey is a sport that I care deeply about and will continue to cover as long as people let me.
After watching Andreas Nodl score shorthanded against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, it got me thinking about how much this team’s penalty kill reminds me of the 2008-2009 team. That season, the Flyers’ penalty kill ranked 6th in the league and first in shorthanded goals with 16. Of those 16 goals, 7 belonged to captain Mike Richards, who broke the NHL record for most short-handed goals while playing 3-on-5. Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter scored 4 apiece and Scott Hartnell accounted for the final goal.
Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere were signed last season and helped the team distribute ice time better among the forwards, as both are premiere penalty killers. Chris Pronger also took over a lot of ice time from defensemen Randy “human turnstile” Jones and Ryan Parent. The penalty kill remained strong for the season, coming in for the second year in a row at 83% effectiveness, but the team only scored 6 times while shorthanded.
So what makes this team so dangerous on the penalty kill this season?
With Ian Laperriere out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome, Darroll Powe has stepped into his position. Powe’s ice time on the PK has increased dramatically compared to previous seasons, and while he is not the warrior shot-blocker that Laperriere is, he is much more likely to attack the puck or join a developing counter-rush. Betts has followed Powe’s lead, starting counter attacks when the moment presented itself.
Mike Richards is back to leading the penalty kill after a season where his ice time was reduced to keep him fresh. In the 2008-2009 season, Richards was often paired with Simon Gagne on the point, and the two were a dangerous tandem. Gagne has since been replaced by the younger, quicker model in Claude Giroux. Giroux and Richards have combined this season for 5 shorties, with the 6th notched by fill-in Jeff Carter.
Cementing the PK defensively is workhorse Kimmo Timonen and protégé Braydon Coburn, who have been integral to the Flyers in this area of special teams for the last three seasons. Pronger certainly beefs up the defense as well, and third defensive pairing Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell have filled in nicely to spread the ice time around.
What you end up with is a team that is defensively responsible and yet loose and aggressive. Adding budding two-way forward Andreas Nodl to the mix only makes this unit more exciting to watch every game.