For this club, standing still is an understatement.
Coming into yesterday’s tilt with the New York Islanders, the Flyers powerplay had been sputtering at 2 goals in the last 41 attempts. I was a bit shocked to discover that the Flyers are still 16th in the NHL in terms of powerplay success, but it doesn’t really matter if everyone else stinks too. The team focused on improving this area of the game in practice over the course of the week, but failed to convert against the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils.
“It seems every time we spend a lot of time working on [the powerplay], and I remember in past years when the powerplay’s not clicking, we’d spend a full day watching videos and spending full practices on it,” said Danny Briere after the win against the Devils. “It doesn’t usually click right away the next game. It takes three or four games and it will get rolling.”
The two main line combinations that had been established in practice were Mike Richards-Jeff Carter-Ville Leino and Claude Giroux-Danny Briere-Scott Hartnell, with Chris Pronger- Kimmo Timonen or Andrej Meszaros-Matt Carle at the points.
Neither combination got off to a great start. The team, in general, has trouble entering the zone when they aren’t dumping the puck deep. Briere and Richards have both been guilty of skating right into opposing players and losing the puck before the team can even set up. Once they have set up, they can’t seem to generate movement. They get a body in front of the net, but then slowly cycle the puck around looking for shooting lanes.
Laviolette was asked his thoughts about their struggles on Saturday.
“It’s coming. Wait ‘till tomorrow.”
It was a funny one-timer from the coach, but he added a bit more to that statement, echoing Briere’s earlier sentiment that change doesn’t happen overnight.
“I have confidence we’re gonna score goals five on five. We did tonight and I have confidence we’re gonna score on the powerplay. We have the right people, talented people. It’s like anything in sports- you go through a little bit of a stretch where you’re not getting the results you want, and I’m gonna remain positive and confident in the fact that these players will score on the powerplay.”
The first sign of life came at a critical point in yesterday’s game. Down 2-1 in the third period, the Flyers were given their fourth chance of the day from a holding penalty on Matt Moulson. For the first time in ages, the team was skating around the net, moving the puck quickly. Andrej Meszaros fired from the point, and Andreas Nodl, skating to the net, flipped the puck up and over Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Needless to say, the only guarantee from yesterday’s game is to expect more special teams time for Nodl. Who knows if the powerplay will stay consistent from here on out, but the team seems to have confidence that it will.