CALGARY -- The numbers are daunting.
But the Flyers say their penalty kill, like most aspects of hockey during an 82-game season, gets results in cycles.
Then consider this most recent stretch - allowing 4 goals on their last 5 penalty kill attempts (20% success) to start this road trip - to be the down side of that cycle.
“I don’t know why that’s been the case,” Claude Giroux said. “But it’s something that is killing us.”
As a whole, it’s been a rough month for the Flyers‘ PK: they are 36-for-49 (73.1%) since Feb. 1, which could be the key reason why the Flyers are in the midst of their first losing month (4-6-1) of the season.
Still, the Flyers‘ penalty kill has dropped to just 21st in the league - and it’s been worse this season, sliding down to 25th at one point. No team, not even Columbus, has played a prolonged stretch of games operating at under 75 percent.
The Flyers‘ tough 1-for-5 stretch against Edmonton and Winnipeg curiously came as both Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina try to acclimate themselves to the lineup. Both players skated together as a pair on at least one PK against the Jets.
Laviolette said it will “take time,” and that the coaching staff continues to teach and show video to bring those players up to speed.
But what about when the veterans aren’t getting the job done?
“I think it just comes down to, when we’re getting opportunities to clear pucks and block shots, we’re not making those plays right now,” Matt Carle said. “I think that’s really been killing us.”
There has been some other theories suggested for the Flyers‘ penalty killing demise, such as that they are tightening the box and being less aggressive than usual. Carle and Laviolette both downplayed that notion, though Laviolette said “confidence goes with anything.”
Money aside, the Flyers haven’t gotten the big saves when they’ve needed them on the penalty kill, either. The old mantra in hockey is that the team’s best penalty killer is the goaltender.
For the Flyers, it hasn’t been either Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky.
Among goaltenders with at least 20 starts this season, the numbers are ugly for both of them: Bryzgalov ranks 37th in save percentage (125-for-155, .838%) and Bobrovsky is actually just ahead of him in 35th (76-for-94, .839%).
Those numbers don’t sound too bad, right? There are 30 teams in the league.
Well, only 41 goaltenders have made at least 20 starts this season. Here’s the bottom 7 in penalty kill save percentage:
35. Sergei Bobrovsky (Philadelphia): .839 - Team PK rank: 21st
36. Dwayne Roloson (Tampa Bay): .838 - Team PK rank: 25th
37. Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia): .838 - Team PK rank: 21st
38. Semyon Varlamov (Colorado): .834 - Team PK rank: 14th
39. Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis): .827 - Team PK rank: 16th
40. James Reimer (Toronto): .800 - Team PK rank: 29th
41. Steve Mason (Columbus): .794 - Team PK rank: 30th
As you can see, based on team ranks, the goaltender plays a big role in the penalty killing success. The one exception would be Colorado, since Varlamov has seen the bulk of the shot on the PK over Jean-Sebastien Giguere, which would suggest that the Avalanche penalty killers are better than average.
So, since both of the Flyers' goaltenders are struggling, does that mean the Flyers' penalty killers are underperforming? Yes. Does that mean that Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky are completely at fault? No.
It's a combination of both. And Laviolette is banking on a change.
“I think everything is a bit cyclical,” Laviolette said. “You can take too many undisciplined penalties. The power play can be hot or cold. The penalty kill needs to do a better job. We’re in one of those ruts right now. I promise you, we will come out of it, and we’ll be talking about [the better numbers].”
RICHARDS BLASTS MEDIA: On Saturday, with new teammate Jeff Carter back in the house, former Flyers captain Mike Richards was asked what will be different from Philadelphia this time around.
Clearly, the Flyers made a choice last summer that they could not win a Stanley Cup with both players on their roster. What will change in Los Angeles?
“We just don’t have the same reporters here, so that’s probably to change a lot of things,” Richards said. “When they make up stories that aren’t true, it’s tough.”
GOON ON ‘GOON’: Since the Flyers had an off-day in Calgary on Friday, Peter Laviolette gathered his troops for a team lunch and then to see the new hockey flick, “Goon,” starring Sean Williams Scott. The movie, which hit theaters on Friday, is made in a “Slap Shot” vein.