VOORHEES – Players will go to great lengths to kill off a penalty, but Justin Braun may have taken things to a new level the other night.
The Flyers were in the midst of trying to thwart a Carolina Hurricane power play when Braun dove face-first to prevent a puck from getting loose in front of goaltender Carter Hart on the edge of the crease.
Let Hart take it from there:
“The puck was kind of like under him (Braun),’’ a grinning Hart said after Wednesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “And like I tried to cover it.
“I was kind of like putting a hand on his butt. And then his daughter, he told me today — I think she’s three – was saying, ‘Daddy, he kept touching your butt!’ That was pretty funny, I got a kick out of that.’’
It just goes to show what lengths the players will go to kill penalties, as the Flyers have done in the last seven-plus games, having killed 23 of their last 25 power-play situations.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov said the Flyers have made some adjustments from last year, when the PK was run by assistant coach Ian Laperriere. Now it’s assistant coach Mike Yeo’s show and the Flyers are improving.
After finishing 26th in the NHL last year at 78.5 percent, the Flyers currently rank 13th at 83.7 percent.
Ivan Provorov, a workhorse when the Flyers are a man or two short, likes what he’s seen so far.
“We’ve done a few small changes,’’ he said. “We’re just buying in a little bit more this year. We’re willing to sacrifice, block shots. When it’s time to pressure, all four guys are on the same page.
“That’s been helping us get the puck in the corners, clear the puck 200 feet and make teams break out multiple times on one power play and frustrate them.’’
Killing off a penalty or two at a crucial time can change the momentum of a game.
“When you have good gaps and don’t let them enter the zone, have a few blocks, that gives energy to your team,’’ Provorov said.
Hart appreciates the support. It makes his job a lot easier.
“All their chances were from the outside,’’ Hart said of the Hurricanes’ power play, which was stopped on all three occasions. “We limited second opportunities. On the PK, that’s all you can ask for. Let them play from the outside. They’re not going to score if they play from the outside.’’
And remember, the Flyers have been doing much of this without one of their best penalty killers, Scott Laughton, who is out a month with a broken finger.
Michael Raffl has absorbed a little extra time on the kill because of Laughton’s absence. According to Raffl, Yeo’s system removes any doubt about where to be on the ice.
“I think Mike’s done a pretty job of having a consistent system,’’ Raffl said. “Everybody’s on the same page, everybody knows what to do. He’s pays attention to details and the stickwork.
“I think we know when to go and when not to go, as far as the pressure points on the ice. If they’re set up, we kind of become more passive, but as soon as the puck bounces somewhere, everybody knows that we can go. Everybody knows their role and we’ve done a pretty good job this year.”
Head coach Alain Vigneault knows how crucial penalty killing can be. That’s why he’s pleased with that 92 percent success rate over the last seven-plus games.
“There is a process, an understanding of what you’re going to see from the opposition,’’ he said. “What you’re willing to give up as far as chances.
“Players and goaltenders have to be on the same wavelength. But there’s no doubt that our PK has spent a lot of time working through it and lately it’s been good.’’
>Rubtsov down, Vorobyev up
The Philadelphia-Allentown shuttle was active again on Wednesday as Mikhail Vorobyev was brought back up to the Flyers and German Rubtsov was returned to the Phantoms.
Vigneault is still trying to find the right fit for that fourth-line center spot. In addition to the switch of the Russians, he also moved Raffl down to the fourth line for Wednesday’s practice.
“I thought for the first 40 minutes (of the Carolina game), ‘Ruby’s’ line spent most of that time in our zone,’’ Vigneault explained. “I was looking for a little bit better balance, so I made that switch (Raffl down). Especially because we’re playing four games in six nights.’’
Hart, winner of his last two starts, will get the call Thursday night when the Montreal Canadiens visit. . .After a couple games where defenseman Travis Sanheim made some gaffes, his effort was steadier against Carolina. “I think Travis is working his way through this situation,’’ Vigneault said. “My expectations were high on him. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself. Things didn’t go the right way and now you have to work your way through it.’’. . .The Flyers have 23 third-period goals, second highest in the NHL. They have outscored opponents in the third period by a 23-12 margin.