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Meltzer's Line Play: Reshaping the Penalty Kill

Who could make up the units that had too many highs and lows last season

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

The Flyers penalty kill in 2018-19 was almost a tale of two different seasons hidden within a poor overall total of a 78.5 percent success rate and 26th overall ranking in a 31-team league. 

Over the first quarter of last season, the PK clocked in at below 70 percent; a disastrous number. While up-ice pressure and entry denials were much improved, the team's own zone play and goaltending were far below the bar. For the rest of the season, the PK improved and actually became a strength. The team PK numbers were north of 80 percent the rest of the way. 

The challenge for the Flyers this year is to put things together for the entire season; not just a portion of it. How will new penalty kill coach Mike Yeo and his charges go about accomplishing that feat? 

One key, of course, is stable goaltending. The continued maturation of Carter Hart and a healthy season from veteran Brian Elliott is vital. A second factor: Combining strong-side pressure and aggressive challenges on opposing entry attempts paid dividends as last season progressed. Last but not least, general manager Chuck Fletcher has added some experienced penalty killers to the roster mix. The rest comes down to execution.

How will the Flyers penalty kill units be arranged? Here is one possibility. 

FORWARD PAIRS
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier
Michael Raffl - Kevin Hayes
Oskar Lindblom - Scott Laughton.

DEFENSE PAIRS
Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskaken
Travis Sanheim - Justin Braun.

The two veteran addition defensemen (Niskanen and Braun) and new forward Hayes have all played on the penalty kill during their NHL careers, and will add some experience to the mix. The other players were all part of the Flyers' penalty kill last season during the second-half upswing.

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