Special teams will play key role in Flyers’ fortunes

Travis Konecny

VOORHEES – The most power-ful team usually wins big hockey games.

For example, take the New York Islanders’ Stanley Cup series win over the Flyers in 1980.

You know how many power-play goals the Isles scored in that six-game series?

Fifteen. 1-5. Nearly three per game. In fact, in Game 3, the New Yorkers scored five times with the man advantage.

The point here is special teams can make or break a playoff series. Clearly, the ’80 Flyers’ penalty kill could do little to stop the Islanders Big Blue Machine and it cost them.

At the Flyers’ current training camp, they’ve been stopping the clock in the middle of scrimmages to specifically work on the power play (and simultaneously on the penalty kill).

Coach Alain Vigneault, who saw his team improve from 26th in the NHL on the PP two seasons ago up to 14th at 20.6 percent, believes his team can get back to that level of efficiency in the upcoming playoffs.

“It’s one of the areas that we feel we’ve got with those four games (Pittsburgh preseason, followed by round robin vs. Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay) we’re going to have a good amount of time to get it back to where it was before, just like the penalty killing,’’ Vigneault said.

“It’s a start. We have other areas that we felt were important for us to touch and feel that our guys have been progressing at a good, steady pace. We’ve got one more official practice (Saturday) and then we leave for Toronto. It will be start of out opportunity to go and try to win the Stanley Cup.’’

The penalty kill also made big strides this season under assistant coach Mike Yeo.

Right now, the Flyers want to see efficiency on both sides of the puck.

Leading scorer Travis Konecny connected five times on the power play (third on the Flyers) in the shortened season. He sees progress.

“Just a matter of getting back to being comfortable and getting used to each other and where we’re going to be on the ice,’’ Konecny said. “Just going to keep working at it everyday.

“The penalty kill, they’re doing well right now. It’s easy to get frustrated when the power play’s not going well, but if you look at it from the other side of the coin that means our PK right now is right where it should be and improving. So it’s good to see.’’

Scott Laughton spends a lot of time on the penalty kill and looks comfortable out there with folks like Kevin Hayes, Tyler Pitlick and Michael Raffl.

In Thursday’s scrimmage, things got a little feisty. The penalty kill units were more than holding their own, then the power play came up with a couple goals and the intensity went up a notch. Since there’s no real body checking allowed, sticks were banging and words were exchanged.

“There’s lots of competition,’’ Laughton said. “When you’re PKing that much and the power play’s getting a little frustrated. . .then they score a couple, it’s a little back and forth.

“I thought it was a good day for us. Just continue to grow our game and be able to play we want to. It gets a little heated when guys are going after each other and all that.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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