pass too often, power-play is useless, Steve Mason playing well, Gustafsson needs to play
1. The Power Play Must Improve
The Philadelphia Flyers are creating chances 5-on-5, and that’s great, but it’s clear from tonight that they struggle to put the puck in the back of net at even-strength. Last season had a similar problem, but one thing was different: they could count on their power-play to bail them out. This season, however, they’ve been disastrous with the man advantage; in fact, they are 27th in the league at 2-for-23 (8.7%).
After the game, captain Claude Giroux said this about the PP unit: “I thought we moved the puck well tonight, we had a couple of chances; we just need to relax and make the plays that are out there.”
Relaxing is key; the Flyers seem to force the puck a lot once they set up in the offensive zone. Not only do they have trouble maintaining possession for more than 10-15 seconds at a time, but when they do control the puck they fail to make the passes that count. Missing open rebounds didn’t help either.
If the Flyers want to start scoring goals consistently and winning games, the power play must improve.
2. Steve Mason Was A Steal
As much as we love to hate what Paul Holmgren and the front office have done over the past few years, and sometimes for goods reason, the Steve Mason trade has to go down as possibly his best move. He got him for Leighton and a 3rd-rounder . . . basically nothing; Mason has been stellar in a Flyers uniform, and that continued tonight.
After a tough season opener, he’s put up 32-save, 33-save, and 29-save performances in his last three. Only one or two of the five goals scored against him in that time span have been his fault; the rest have been defensive breakdowns/poor turnovers. People want to criticize him for that rip from Ekman-Larsson today, but the guy had a wide open shooting lane after faking Max Talbot out. He’s made a ton of huge saves, especially when his defense leaves him out to dry, and it seems he’s been one of the few bright spots on this team to date.
3. Once a Knucklehead, Always a Knucklehead
I thought Zac Rinaldo was starting to turn it around. He played relatively well last year and coming into tonight he’d been a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the ice (creating chances and leading the league in hits). Tonight, he started out with a bang, destroying Biznasty in a fight and then getting the assist on Talbot’s second-period tally. Could this be real? Rinaldo being a positive all-around?
As could have been expected, that reality was short-lived. He would go on within a minute of that assist to commit a “stupid,” in the words of head coach Craig Berube, high-sticking penalty, which led to a Coyotes power play and the game-winning goal at the end of the second period. Rinaldo had a ridiculous 11 penalty minutes, giving the Coyotes 3 of their 6 power plays. Yeah, having a physical presence is nice, but if Rinaldo continues to make bonehead plays it’s hard to imagine continuing to get quality ice time.
4. Schenn and Lecavalier Is A Match Made in Heaven
While Claude Giroux has struggled to find rhythm with anyone on this team (he played with Schenn, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, and Jake Voracek at at least one point tonight), Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn have certainly found a lot of chemistry on that second line. Everything just to seems to click—before the shot gets off, at least—when these two are together.
There were numerous points in this game where Schenn and Lecavalier were the only ones doing much of anything in the offensive zone; they would force a turnover at the blue line and make 2-on-2 or 2-on-3 rushes but somehow find a way to move the puck between themselves and create a good opportunity. They combined for 8 shots, 5 of which were on goal.
5. Flyers Have to Pack the Puck LESS
Yes, I said “less.” And no, I don’t mean giving the puck to Claude Giroux on the power-play and letting him try and dangle four defenders. What I mean is not making that extra pass to create a “perfect” opportunity. The Flyers get a lot of good chances, but certain guys pass them up to try and make the extra pass for that better opportunity, only to see the puck bounce off a stick or get caught in traffic. The biggest culprit in this regard is the aforementioned Schenn, who probably passed up at least 3 open opportunities on net to try and find a more open teammate.
When a team is struggling, one of two things happens: players either take more shots than usual, wasting opportunities, or they don’t take enough shots for the fear of leaving a better opportunity on the ice. To break out of this funk, this team needs to trust in its ability to shoot the puck again; Craig Berube said it best during the postgame presser: “We don’t have enough traffic in front of the net. We need some greasy goals.” You don’t get those unless pucks are being thrust at the net.