What the Flyers are doing right to energize power play

Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere (Photo by Zack Hill).

Numbers don’t lie, the saying goes, they just don’t tell the truth.

In business, it’s all about which way the data is trending and in hockey, it can be similar.

Take, for example, the Flyers’ power play.

It’s been disappointing much of the season and it’s currently ranked 21st in the NHL at 20 percent.

That might not seem very good but on closer examination, it seems to be heading in the right direction, with at least one goal in each of the last four games, six out of seven and two goals in Monday night’s 5-4 overtime win over the Rangers.

What’s the cause for the latest success?

Or, better yet, what are the Flyers doing better now than they were, say, a few weeks ago?

The Flyers didn’t skate on Tuesday while they awaited Wednesday night’s rematch at Madison Square Garden, so assistant coach Ian Laperriere took over head coach Alain Vigneault’s media duties.

Laperriere said the Flyers actually were showing signs of life with the man advantage some two weeks ago on a week-long road trip in Pittsburgh.

“The boys were moving the puck well,’’ said Laperriere on a media Zoom call from MSG. “Power play is not always. . .obviously you want to score goals but it’s about getting momentum or not losing momentum.

“At the beginning of the year we felt our power play was losing momentum. We couldn’t set up in their zone. But in the last little while, the guys have been doing a great job moving the puck around and not losing momentum.’’

Leading the way has been James van Riemsdyk, whose seven power-play goals stand fifth in the NHL. A bunch of these have come off deflections, a byproduct of getting a higher volume of shots on net.

“The power play, especially with the lack of practice we have right now, is a chemistry thing,’’ Laperriere noted. “I think the guys are feeling it.

“You saw yesterday, we don’t win that game without the power play. That’s what we need.’’

>Aube-Kubel has room for improvement

Second-year player Nicolas Aube-Kubel has some good nights and some not-so-good nights. He’s 24 years old, so it’s not like he’s some wide-eyed rookie.

Laperriere agreed NAK has had “some ups and downs.’’

“He has some great games and others he seems to lose focus,’’ Laperriere said. “I work with him pretty much everyday to keep him focused. He’s learning everyday.’’

Aube-Kubel has played in 25 games with two goals/seven points and a minus-5. He does have exceptional skating skills and can mix it up with any size player.

One thing which hasn’t helped much is constant movement from one line to another with different teammates. It’s hard to develop chemistry when you have new linemates practically every night.

>Cleaning up the mistakes

With the Flyers’ season nearing its halfway point, the team still falls into ruts where defensive errors lead to costly goals. It’s an area the Flyers have to clean up.

Right now, the Flyers have given up 86 goals, one less than they’ve scored. Last year, the Flyers finished the 69-game season at plus-36. They have a long way to go to catch that 2019-20 number.

“It’s tough to play a full 60 minutes right now,’’ Laperriere said. “We need to find a way to learn from what we did good. Yesterday, I thought our first period was very good. We got the puck deep and created offense by doing that.

“For whatever reason, we went away from that. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.’’

>Farabee contribution more than just goals

Along with van Riemsdyk, Joel Farabee might be co-surprise player of the year. He’s scored a dozen goals, 11 of them at even strength, which puts him among the league leaders.

That said, Laperriere points out Farabee, 21, has been playing a good overall game.

“We always thought he had a high hockey IQ, like ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier),’’ Laperriere said. “He reads the game well in front of him. The offensive side of it was something I knew was going to come but that quickly is a little bit surprising.

“He’s got that swagger and it’s impressive.’’

About Wayne Fish 1334 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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