NEW YORK – If you’re looking for some less than obvious reasons for the Flyers’ recent success, start with their much improved power play.
Languishing around the middle of the NHL pack at the turn of the year, the Flyers have caught fire and now stand eighth at 21.54 percent.
They reached as high as sixth just last week.
This in contrast to last season, when the power play finished 14th in the NHL at 19.49 percent and probably cost assistant coach Joe Mullen his job.
Mullen’s replacement, Kris “Chuck’’ Knoblauch, has done a good job this season throwing different looks at opponents.
The Flyers have also stressed quicker puck movement and even with the trading of last year’s NHL power-play leader, Brayden Schenn, really haven’t missed a beat.
Of course, it helps to have a healthy Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere on the first man-advantage unit.
Last year, both were recovering from abdominal surgery. Now, obviously, they are a hundred percent.
Scoring on the power play can intimidate opponents.
“Their power play is lethal,’’ Montreal captain Max Pacioretty said the other night after the Flyers put away the Canadiens by a 5-3 score.
Coach Dave Hakstol appreciates what the first unit of Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Gostisbehere, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier has accomplished.
This quintet has been together for a while, with Couturier replacing Schenn as the only real difference from last year.
“Kris coming in and working with them to develop different layers, different looks to what they’re doing – they’ve evolved over the year,’’ Hakstol said the other day.
“And they’re continuing to add different looks. I think that’s real important. I give credit to all six of those guys, including ‘Chuck’ in that group.’’