PHILADELPHIA – There were a lot of streaks that continued Wednesday as the Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in their first game at the Wells Fargo Center in 2014.
(Read the Game Recap here)
There was the winning streak on home ice, which is now two months old and counting, having reached 10 consecutive games for just the sixth time in franchise history, and first since early in the 2003-04 season.
It was also the first time they won 10 straight on home ice in regulation time since a 14-game stretch at the end of the 1984-85 season.
And Steve Mason, who was the winning goalie with 19 saves, won his ninth consecutive game on home ice, becoming the first goalie to do that since Bob Froese in 1985-86.
But perhaps the most impressive streak is that of the Flyers penalty kill, which after turning away Montreal four times has now killed 19 straight penalties. They haven’t allowed a power play goal against in six straight games.
And when you win the battle of special teams, more often than not, you win the game outright.
“It’s just guys willing to block shots and sacrifice their bodies and getting sticks into passing and shooting lanes,” said Sean Couturier, who is considered by many to be the Flyers best penalty killer. “It’s doing the little things that sometimes you don’t realize that makes us effective and it’s a total team effort.
|The one streak that didn't continue Wednesday was Scott Hartnell's career-best eight game point streak which ended - although he came centimeters away from scoring a goal late in the third period. |
“Mentally it’s huge that we’re confident that we can kill a penalty and create momentum for the team after killing a penalty.”
The Flyers penalty kill has climbed into a tie for seventh in the NHL at a rate of 84.6 percent – and it seems to be getting better with each game.
And the Flyers are doing it by denying shots on goal. In these past 19 kills, they’ve only allowed 25 shots, or an average of 1.32 shots per power play.
“[Assistant coach Ian] Laperriere handles the PK,” coach Craig Berube said. “He does a real good job of scouting the other team and taking away their options, taking away their strengths. I think that’s the biggest thing. The players are doing a great job. Penalty killing is about everybody on the ice being more committed than the power play, blocking shots, clearing pucks, goalies making big saves, so they’re all on the same page. They do a real good job.”
So much so that the Flyers have six of the top 30 players in the NHL in fewest shots allowed per 60 minutes of ice time at 4-on-5 play.
Couturier ranks highest on that list, but so does the unheralded Adam Hall, the injured Matt Read as well as defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Nick Grossmann and Luke Schenn.
With Michael Raffl proving he can kill penalties, Zac Rinaldo slowly developing into a reliable killer and even call-up Chris Vandevelde getting some spot time, the Flyers appear to have a unit that is as lock down as they come in the NHL.
“We’re just sticking to the system and working hard,” Raffl said. “That’s the key on the PK I think. We know what they were trying to do and we tried to have good sticks, be in position all the time, and I think we did a good job.”
And they’ve been doing a good job in so many areas. They’re scoring more goals. They’re getting contributions from all four lines. Their defensemen continue to put up points. They’re getting continued solid goaltending.
It’s all coming together at once for the Flyers – and the penalty kill is a big piece of that puzzle.
“You can’t give enough credit to it,” Mason said. “We take a lot of penalties so it’s obviously a huge part of our game. The guys that we have on the kill are extremely competitive and sacrifice themselves blocking shots, especially our defensemen. They’re a huge reason why we’re having success right now.”
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