PHILADELPHIA – What was supposed to be one of the Flyers’ strong suits this year has become somewhat of a liability.
After finishing 11th in the NHL last season, the Flyers’ penalty kill has languished as low as 27th this time around.
For evidence of this problem, one need only go back just one day to Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
The Flyers gave up two quick shorthanded goals to the Penguins and one could make a case that ultimately cost them the game.
Obviously, the limited practice time over the past few weeks has handcuffed coach Alain Vigneault’s staff from making adjustments on the ice.
First there was over a week off due to the pandemic, then the Flyers began a stretch of six games in nine days, which ended Sunday night against Washington.
In a late Sunday afternoon media Zoom call, Vigneault confirmed he’s had to go to alternate methods to get his special teams going again (the power play hasn’t been much better).
“The coaching staff is spending a lot of time watching video,’’ Vigneault said. “They’re going through a few different principles with our group that we believe if we apply, our penalty killing will be better.
“It’s really unfortunate. I thought our penalty killing was going the right way and the last game I thought it was going the right way when all of a sudden their first two opportunities, there were individual mistakes that left seams open. There is no practice time, there are principles our players have been aware of since we (coaching staff) have been here that you have to apply. We have to do a better job at that.’’
Asked about specifics regarding those principles, Vigneault listed a couple. Apparently the team was doing well following those concepts last season.
“One of them is, ‘one guy goes, four guys go.’ That takes options away,’’ Vigneault explained. “We just have been a little indecisive in a couple moments on the ice that have led to ‘seam plays’, rebound opportunities for the opposition that we were able to take away in the past.
“I would say staying out of the box also might be a good idea.’’
>Myers returns to lineup
Defenseman Phil Myers, who sat out Saturday’s game due to an upper-body injury suffered in Thursday’s game, was back in the lineup Sunday night.
Vigneault decided to rest Robert Hagg and scratched Nate Prosser, so Erik Gustafsson returned to action.
Also, Michael Raffl was scratched due to a few issues from Saturday’s game.
“He’s got a couple issues right now going on,’’ Vigneault said. “He pl ays through a lot of pain. I felt it was better to keep him out tonight and play (Connor) Bunnaman.
“Hagg has played well but this is six in nine. I wanted fresh legs so I’m putting Gustafsson back on ‘D.’+”
>Fans in the house
While there were only 3,800 fans allowed back into the Wells Fargo Center for the first time in a year, the restricted crowd made plenty of noise, which is exactly what the Flyers were hoping for.
“There’s no doubt that having fans and feeling their emotion, their energy is going to be a boost for us,’’ Vigneault said. “We’re no different than any team in the NHL. There’s a lot of hockey being played but to be able to come home in these circumstances and being able to see a number of fans is very positive for us.’’