On March 14th, the question was posed by Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Are the Flyers trending the right way?” While met with some scrutiny, it was a valid question. The Flyers were coming off the heels of a 5-4 loss against the Washington Capitals and a 1-3-0 homestand. It seemed heinous to suggest this team was trending the right way. They got two of a possible eight points on that homestand. However, a deeper dive into those games, particularly the Saturday night loss against Washington, showed the Flyers were showing signs of life.
The game on the 14th marked the third straight game the Flyers recorded a tally on the powerplay. While they only killed one of their two penalties, they had killed five of five in the previous three games. Yes, the special teams units that we loathed about a week ago, thanks Bobby Shmurda, seem to be rounding a bit of a corner lately. The powerplay is in the midst of a four game scoring streak. The penalty kill is also at its highest rate in over a month. Let’s talk about it.
Currently, the Flyers are killing penalties at a 74.07% clip. That’s sixth worst across the entire NHL. Looking back a few weeks though, it’s a vast improvement from where they were. Towards the end of January, the Flyers penalty kill was only killing 63.64% of their penalties after the January 23rd Bruins game. In the three games following, the Flyers killed off 14 of 15 (93.33%) of their penalties. During the three after those, they killed off three of the seven penalties they accrued.
In the entire month of February, the Flyers killed off 18 penalties out of a total of 26, good for a 69.23% efficiency rating. Fast forward to the first half of this month, and the Flyers are performing much better. They’ve killed off 14 of 17 penalties, good for an 82.35% penalty kill. Even more encouraging is the fact that the Flyers are averaging less penalties in March (2.25) than they are in the month of February (3.25.)
The Flyers play the New York Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres during the latter half of March. The Flyers are a combined 37 of 43 on the penalty kill versus these teams this season. That’s an 86.05% penalty kill rate. They have yet to give up a powerplay goal against the Devils in their five attempts in two games. They’ve given up one goal on the man advantage to the Islanders in 10 attempts thus far. They’re 13 of 15 against the Sabres and 10 of 13 against the Rangers. The Flyers could use the latter part of the month here to really bolster their penalty kill. They just need to seize the opportunity in front of them.
The Flyers powerplay started off the season with a bang against Pittsburgh. Going three-of-nine in those first two games, they’re production on the man advantage has dipped since then. It remained at 30% for one more game against the Sabres, and has never gotten back to that mark, which is reasonable. Overall in their 10 January games, the Flyers scored eight powerplay goals on 31 attempts, putting their percentage at 25.81%. That mark would be good for ninth in the league as of right now.
February is where we started to see things trend downhill. The Flyers converted on four powerplay attempts out of a total of 32. That’s good for 12.5%. Scratch that, that’s bad for 12.5%. The Flyers turned things around come March, hitting on seven of their 29 total powerplays, giving them a 24.14% conversion rate for the month so far. Even better, the Flyers have at least one powerplay goal in six of their last seven games and are riding a four game streak of having at least one powerplay goal. Things are looking up and could look even better by the end of the month.
The Flyers are a combined eight of 42 on the powerplay against their remaining March opponents. While the 19.05% isn’t as sexy as you’d like it to be, it’s because they only have one tally on the man advantage in 12 opportunities against the Sabres, of all teams. Discount Buffalo, and they’re a combined seven of 30, a solid 23.33%. The Rangers are averaging six penalties per game against the Flyers this season, giving the orange and black ample opportunities to bolster their powerplay. Their highest mark comes against the New Jersey Devils, going two-of-seven in two games for a 28.8% on the man advantage. If the Flyers can keep riding that momentum, they could end up in the top ten of the league by the end of the month in terms of powerplay percentage.
It’s fair to gripe about the lack of production early on in the season. Whether it’s a reluctance to switch things up or players just flat out struggling, the Flyers first half of the season wasn’t kind to their special teams units. With momentum currently swinging in their favor, the Flyers have a unique opportunity to right the ship and get back on track. The right teams lay ahead of them for that to happen. All that’s left to do is carry out that mission.
Photo Credit – Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire