VOORHEES, N.J. – Don’t let the middle-of-the-pack 18th-place ranking fool you: The Flyers’ power play left a lot to be desired last season.
It’s success rate, just 19.2 percent, might be a more telling stat. And, from memory alone, you don’t need any particular set of numbers to know the Flyers’ extra-man unit often failed in the clutch.
But over the summer, things may have changed for the better. Gone are Jake Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere, who saw plenty of time on the power play; now it’s Cam Atkinson and Rasmus Ristolainen among others.
At Tuesday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center, coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged he’s experimenting with different combinations to find some chemistry in this all-important aspect of the game.
Also, there might be a new design with the power play. For years, it’s been a mix of Voracek and Claude Giroux on the half-walls. Perhaps a new look would help.
“It’s a work in progress,’’ Vigneault said. “Like we have different concepts that we feel make power plays successful but different players at different spots right now. We’re feeling out who might help us in different spots. We’re going to try different looks to see what fits best for this group.’’
The return to full form of Oskar Lindblom and the arrival of Atkinson should help. Maybe even rookie Tyson Foerster could get into the mix.
“We have a lot of experience we’re going to look at moving forward,’’ Vigneault said. “Hopefully some guys make it real hard for us to make some tough decisions.’’
Defenseman Ivan Provorov figures prominently on the No. 1 unit and would like to see better production from both his and the second groups. Last season, the second outfit produced only two goals in the pandemic-shortened 56-game season.
“The power play is definitely an important part of the game,’’ Provorov said. “When you have an opportunity to score, gain momentum, it’s important to do that. I think now we have two solid units that if one isn’t going that night, I’m sure the other can pull through. I’m excited for that and to see how we start the season. Hopefully we start off the right way and keep going from there.’’
>Atkinson fitting in
Atkinson spent his entire career with the Columbus Blue Jackets until his trade to the Flyers for Voracek. It sounds like he’s making an easy transition to his new team.
“I’m excited,’’ he said prior to Tuesday night’s preseason opener against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. “Typically you only have two days of practice and then you go right into preseason (games). But we’ve had quite a bit of time (four training camp sessions) to get acclimated to teammates, which I think is a good thing because you build that chemistry. I’m excited to rock that orange and black tonight.’’
Atkinson previously played with Derick Brassard in Columbus. Vigneault has been trying Lindblom on the left wing on that line and it’s looked good in practice drills.
“Both players have some really good skill,’’ Atkinson said. “You could tell right from the first day Oskar is excited. His body is a hundred percent ready to rock and roll. I think what makes us successful so far is just the way we make plays for each other, especially in the offensive zone. We’ve done a pretty good job in practice and hopefully we can carry it over to the game.’’
Atkinson has a career season high of 41 goals so he knows his way around the net. With all the playmakers the Flyers have in their lineup, a return to 30 or so wouldn’t be out of the question.
“There’s no question I like to shoot the puck,’’ he said with a grin. “When you are put with pretty good playmakers, you know it’s up to me to finish the job.’’
>Foerster on stage
Vigneault said he wanted to get a look at Foerster against the Islanders to see how he stood up against NHL talent.
“I’m real anxious for what we’re going to see tonight,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s his first NHL game, so far he hasn’t had an issue following the pace. He’s got that shoot-first mentality. Great attribute to have.’’
>Laczynski status unclear
Tanner Laczynski underwent offseason hip surgery, came back and now he’s apparently suffered an injury to his other hip.
The Flyers are debating whether to have the rookie center undergo another operation or, as Vigneault offered, “let him play through it.’’