VOORHEES – If ever the Flyers needed a power play to be functioning at high level, it’s now.
Faced with almost the impossible task of overcoming a six-point deficit for a playoff spot with just 10 games to play, the Flyers have not been efficient with the man advantage of late.
In fact, heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Flyers were stuck in an 0 for 17 drought on the power play.
What’s been the problem? Lack of clean entries into the attack zone? Poor faceoff percentage? Not enough traffic in front of the net?
It’s probably a mixture of all three.
At Tuesday morning’s practice at the Skate Zone, coach Scott Gordon suggested the faceoff inefficiency is one element that’s caught his eye, even though the Flyers won three in Pittsburgh the other night.
“The first thing for me has been faceoffs,’’ Gordon said, mindful that the Flyers lead the NHL in overall faceoff success rate at better than 55 percent. “For me, that’s been the biggest change in the last eight games.
“The faceoff win percentage (on the power play) has gone down dramatically. If it’s going to go down, we have to do a better job of recovering pucks off the lost faceoff.’’
James van Riemsdyk, who leads the Flyers in power-play goals with eight, said the aforementioned dearth of precision zone entries has hurt the power play’s performance level.
“When you start getting into breakouts as your only way of setting up inside the zone, your success rate is probably not going to be better than 50 percent,’’ Gordon said. “Teams do a good job of forechecking, so that’s why that faceoff win is so important.
“You have immediate possession, you’re going to get your set-up right away. If we’re going to be better on the faceoffs, it’s going to make everything else better.’’
Having Jake Voracek back (he returned for the past two games after missing four games for an injury and a suspension) should help.
Voracek is a big part of the Flyers’ scheme when the Flyers have clean control in set-up situations.
“Obviously the numbers aren’t where we want them to be,’’ Voracek said. “Or where we expect them to be. Those numbers could be better. I think we’re getting off the page too much.’’
From van Riemsdyk’s perspective, it comes down to getting the puck into the prime scoring areas. And that starts with straight-forward movement across the blue line.
“It seems like the last few games we haven’t been getting into the zone as clean,’’ JVR said. “So that limits how much set-up time you get. That’s never a good thing.
“Ultimately, when you’re going through a dry spell, you try to simplify, get pucks to the net and outman them at the net. Then you’re in better shape.’’
Even though the first unit has been piling up a lot of minutes, line changes all depend on situations. If the Flyers have the puck in the attack zone the full two minutes, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to the bench for a breather.
“It’s more of a situational sort of thing,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “If you’re getting zone time and possessing the puck, you’re not going to go for a change, you’re going to try to make something happen.
“Sometimes it’s weird. . .if it’s 35 seconds (into the shift) and the puck gets iced, it’s a judgment call to stay out for the next break-in or get a change. But the second unit has been doing a good job, too, scoring some goals.’’
One power-play goal can change the whole momentum of a game.
“The power plays are critical, especially at this time of the year when goal scoring is hard to come by,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “It can be a game-changer.
“Certainly with how tight things are this time of year and into the spring. That’s where you’re guaranteed to have a little more room. So when you get those opportunities, you have to make them count.’’
>Myers game-time decision
Defenseman Philippe Myers is the latest casualty of the “bug’’ sweeping the Flyers’ locker room. He did not participate in the morning skate. Gordon said he’s a game-time decision.
If Myers can’t go, veteran Andrew MacDonald returns to the lineup.
Also, defenseman Samuel Morin, who has yet to play a game for the Flyers after recovering from last year’s ACL surgery, did not participate in the morning skate for the same reason.
MacDonald has been in and out of the lineup at a head-spinning rate. He sat the Columbus (Feb. 28) and New Jersey (March 1) games, playing against the Islanders and Washington, sat for the Islander rematch, played against Ottawa, sat vs. Washington, played against Toronto and sat against Pittsburgh.
“Just be ready when they call your name,’’ MacDonald said. “Make sure you’re getting some extra work in off the ice. Stay mentally ready.’’
Gordon said if Myers can go, he will stick with a six-defensemen lineup, despite the fact the rookie is still in recovery mode.