Most times, when a team is struggling with one special teams unit, the other is working fine.
However, as the Flyers seem to improve every game their even strength play every game, their special teams are going south on coach Craig Berube.
Joey Mullen’s power play units were third best in the NHL last season, but have sunk to 28th overall (7.4 percent) this year.
“The power play hasn’t been good,” Mark Streit said. “We have so many skilled players with a lot of experience. The last two games this could make the difference in a game and we didn’t do good enough.”
Meanwhile, the penalty kill nosedived from ninth to 18th (87.3 percent).
Of course, when you also lead the NHL in total number of penalties (45), your penalty kill units tend to get overworked. Fewer penalties mean fewer tired players, and that allows the penalty kill success to rise.
“The penalty kill has got to do the job,” Berube said. “I thought so far the penalty kill this year has been good. I didn’t like it last game.”
That’s because Detroit scored three power play goals on Saturday in its 5-2 win.
Berube spent half his practice on Monday at Skate Zone working on special teams.
“Yeah, we got to get them going and we talked about it, worked on it today,” he said. “The power play needs to score. I hate saying that, but they’ve got to create momentum for the team. By having some pressure, getting some shots through, getting some traffic and second and third opportunities around the net.”
The Flyers aren’t getting quality point shots through to the net on their power play. Hence, they are also not getting second/third follow-up chances.
“The power play is all about chemistry, confidence, knowing exactly where everybody is,” Kimmo Timonen said. “We didn’t practice that in the preseason. At all. I knew it was gonna be trouble early in the year and it has been. Now it’s just a matter of getting back to basics and practice, having meetings, talk, see what everybody’s doing wrong. It’s all about passing and shooting the puck. We’re not doing that right now. It’s all about confidence, and we don’t have the confidence right now. It will come.
“It’s the same guys from last year and we were the top in the league. It’s just a matter of talking and making sure we do the same things we’ve been doing for the last couple years.”
Streit backed up Timonen on the lack of power play practice during training camp as a negative factor in the team’s start.
“We didn’t have that much time to work on it,” Streit said. “I think there were a few -- especially on the second unit with myself and Vinny [Lecavalier] -- new guys. You need to build chemistry in order to know what the other guy’s doing just to get a feel for each other.
“I don’t know. We could have probably worked a little bit more but it’s up to the players, too. You go out and you have to execute and that’s one thing we have to do better – execute.”
The newcomers this season are Streit and Lecavalier, so it’s not like the personnel has changed outright, although Danny Briere is no longer here.
“Last year, we were winning games because the power play was working and we were scoring two, three goals a game [on it],” Jakub Voracek said. “Everybody’s working hard in practice on the power play. We’ve played together for the last three years, we’re all trying to know what we need to do to get better.
“I think right now, we’re just a little nervous sometimes during the game. If one PP goes wrong, we say, ‘Oh [bleep], here we go again.’ And it’s just not working right now. We’ve got the same group for the last three years, so we know what we have to do to get better, and I’m sure if we get a couple lucky bounces, we’re going to get better.”
The penalty kill was in the top 10 twice this season before giving up three to the Red Wings on seven chances.
Again, if the Flyers are averaging more than seven penalties a game, their PK units are bound to get burned.
“There’s some penalties you have to take,” Timonen said. “Some penalties are accidents and some are stupid. Seven, eight penalties – I’m sure there’s some stupid ones that we can correct. If we can limit penalties to two or three, that’s good.
“That has to be our goal. I’m sure there’s a couple games you can go without penalties, but that’s not possible the full 82 games. If we can limit those penalties to two or three, that’s gonna be good, instead of seven or eight.”
Timonen himself has been guilty of five penalties this season – all obstruction-oriented.
“I’ve got a lot of penalties,” he admitted. “There’s some bad ones and there’s some bad calls. I’ve got to be better there.”