Even Without Pronger, Power Play Finds Success

6 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers’ power play had been middling around the middle of the league until recently. It started the season off on the right foot, going 8-for-30 in the first five games of the season, but from there, it struggled mightily and stood stagnant around 15th place in the league.

Despite having Chris Pronger in the lineup until Oct. 26, the Flyers’ power play wasn’t exactly running the way it should. They struggled to set up in the opponents’ zone, let alone to get shots on net. But Pronger was supposed to be the key cog to the man advantage. Yes, he has a goal and seven assists in 13 games on the power play, but still the Flyers were struggling even with him manning the point with his heavy slapshot.

That makes it even more surprising that over the weekend the Flyers scored five goals on the power play without him. After an atrocious month of November where the Flyers went 7-for-54 for 12.9 percent, they’re off to a blazing start in December, going 5-for-12 over the weekend in Anaheim and Phoenix.

“It’s hot and cold,” said Scott Hartnell who tallied on the power play on Saturday. “Sometimes you go through stretches where you get a lot of zone time, you’re getting some shots and they’re just not going in.

“Last game, one goes off that partition to [Matt] Read in the slot, he buries it off the post and in. Sometimes you get those breaks. Right now we’re feeling it and this week we have a big test with Buff and Pitt.”

Pronger isn’t the only power play contributor that has missed time. Danny Briere, Jaromir Jagr and Matt Read have all missed time. Brayden Schenn had only played four games before this weekend. But right now, even with Pronger on the shelf again, the Flyers have some experience with the players in their lineup. They had the opportunity to practice their special teams a lot with extended practice time out west, so the units they have now actually know each other pretty well.

“What we had on the road was an opportunity and even now at home just to continue to work on it and let guys get comfortable with it and made mistakes and learn movement, just get some sort of continuity with each unit,” said Peter Laviolette.

“We’ll continue to give it the time in practice. They like to practice and work on it, and when they do I think they start getting confidence and they bring that into the game.”

They sure were confident in Anaheim and Phoenix where they went 3-for-9 and 2-for-3 respectively.

“You know, Joey [Mullen] the PP coach, he stated before the games on the weekend, we need to work hard, outwork the penalty kill,” said Hartnell. “That’s what you need to do, it’s not going to be easy. Just because you have another guy on the ice, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get shots, or goals for that matter. We did a great job outworking them. It was huge.”

Whether they can keep it up or not remains to be seen, but the fact that they did it without Pronger is impressive.

“When you have Chris on the blue line, they have to cheat on him a little more,” said Jagr who is tied for third on the team with eight power play points. “They give him a little more room and it gives the power play a little more time to do something.

“When you see somebody else on the blue line, the other team is pressing those guys. When they’re pressing him a little more, you don’t have time. That’s why I think we should play a little bit differently until he comes back.”

Right now, it seems like what they’re doing is working. When the captain returns, it would be awfully hard to turn him down on the power play, but right now they’re doing just fine without him.

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