Flyers’ penalty kill pulling plug on NHL’s best power players

Sean Couturier

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin one night, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand another.

Those superstars can make any power play look intimidating, be it home, away or at a “neutral’’ site like the playoff bubble in Toronto.

Which is why the Flyers’ penalty kill has looked rather impressive so far, going six-for-six — including  two stoppages against Pittsburgh in last week’s 3-2 OT preseason win and four more in Sunday’s 4-1 toppling of the NHL’s top team, Boston.

As mentioned on a number of occasions, the Flyers’ PK jumped from 26th in 2018-19 to 11th this past season.

Some new faces (Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun) have been added but credit assistant coach Mike Yeo with supplying the unit with a much more aggressive game plan.

As Flyers goalie Carter Hart mentioned after Sunday’s game, a couple timely kills can really change the momentum of a game.

Sean Couturier went along with that assessment.

“I think we have some depth this year on the penalty kill,’’ said  Couturier, one of the premier penalty killers in the NHL and a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), during a Zoom call after Monday’s practice in Toronto.

“We have a few rotations going. All year we’ve used a lot of guys killing penalties. Guy are used to doing that. It’s just going to be another guy stepping up and getting the job done.’’

The Flyers are going to need that depth for Sunday’s game against Washington because one of their best PKers, Michael Raffl, will be sidelined by an injury.

“I’m not sure how long it is or if he might back sooner rather than later,’’ Couturier said. “I don’t know what’s the deal. He’s a great guy to be around. He’s a lot in the dressing room. We’re going to miss him if it’s for an extended period of time. Like I said, there’s some other guys just waiting to get an opportunity. We have some depth, which is a good thing. We can use that.’’

>Praise for Hart

Hart’s performance against Boston looked much like several he produced down the stretch when the Flyers won a season-high nine straight games.

Coach Alain Vigneault said preparation is a big part of Hart’s game.

“First of all, obviously Carter hasn’t done it at this level before, but he has done it in the past on other levels,’’ Vigneault said. “Hockey is hockey. His job is to go in there and give our team a chance to win. He’s got a great relationship with Kim (Dillabaugh), our goaltender coach. He works with him extremely hard at trying to become the best goaltender that is through his preparation, through the questions that he asks. He works on his game.

“He’s a very humble young man. I expect him to keep progressing. I expect him to keep getting better. He’s just a young goaltender that’s got a tremendous amount of potential. I hope, and I’m confident of this because we’ve talked a little bit about this, that he’s having fun with this. This is the best time of the year. You got to go out there. You got to play. You got to have fun.’’

Both Tyler Pitlick and Derek Grant are impressed with Hart’s composure. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

“He’s just so calm in the net,’’ Pitlick said. “He’s just great for us. It seemed like they (the Bruins) were passing all over the place and then on the power play, he’s right in position to make the save. He’s just calm and confident.’’

Grant has played for seven NHL teams so he knows good goaltending when he sees it.

“He’s a special kid,’’ Grant said. “He’s so calm. When he puts his mask on, you don’t know how old he is. He’s always in the right spot. He’s good with the puck. Like Pitter said, if something breaks down in front of him, he’s always there to bail us out. That gives us the confidence to stay aggressive and hopefully cut down on those chances than we make him save.’’







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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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