Flyers plan to stay with aggressive penalty kill

Sean Couturier

PHILADELPHIA – Special teams weren’t very special as far as the Flyers were concerned last season and after three games this time around, things didn’t seem to have changed much.

The Flyers, who finished 32nd (last) on the power play and 25th on the penalty kill during last season’s NHL action, started Thursday night’s fourth game of the season against Edmonton just one for 13 (7.7 percent, 26th in the NHL) on the power play and had allowed three goals on 12 power plays against (75 percent, 23rd in the NHL).

Coach John Tortorella believes the addition of some different penalty killers eventually could help in that department.

That, and a more aggressive approach might make the numbers somewhat respectable.

“A little bit more experience at it from the guys who did it last year,” Tortorella said at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “And you bring in a (Ryan) Poehling and a (Garnet) Hathaway, who have done it. ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier) has done it, Cam (Atkinson) has done it. You just have a little bit more experience.

“We’re trying to be more aggressive and on our toes. Two out of the three games (Ottawa the exception) I thought we did a pretty good job of it. The Ottawa power play just picked us apart (three goals). It was a big reason we lost that hockey game.”

Even though the Senators had a lot of success, the Flyers vow to stick to the plan of strong checking.

“It’s not only great penalty killing, it turns into an instinct,” Tortorella said of the aggressive approach. “It helps your five-on-five game away from the puck, too. A lot of the principles that come into the penalty kill are very similar to coverages without the puck. It helps everything. I am hoping it’s going to be consistent. It (penalty killing) needs to be stepped up as far as aggressive and that’s what we’re trying to do at the beginning of this year.”

>Staal provides good sounding board

When Tortorella mentioned in Flyers training camp that acquired defenseman Marc Staal would be as valuable a mentor as he is a player, he wasn’t kidding around.

Some of the young players on the team, particularly defensemen, are gravitating to the 36-year-old Staal because he’s a walking encyclopedia of hockey knowledge.

The kids might be a little reluctant to approach Tortorella with quesitions but Staal has, in so many words, been a good sounding board for some of the newer guys.

“It’s so much more important that he (a young player) gets it (advice) from his teammate,” Tortorella said. “And that goes hand-in-hand, if you’re going to win, the locker room has to self-sustain.

“We foul things up most of the time as coaches when we over-coach. We may use different language. I just think when you have players going to veteran guys asking the questions and leaning on them, that’s really healthy for a locker room. That’s a big reason why Staal is here. If someone asks him a question, because he’s been through it all, he will be able to give him the proper answer. So important for that to happen in the locker room.”

>Short shots

Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was scratched with an undisclosed injury for a fourth straight game. . .Center Morgan Frost was scratched for a second consecutive game.

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About Wayne Fish 2437 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.