It might turn out to be just an aberration, but the Philadelphia Flyers dreaded penalty kill looked – gulp – pretty good in the final two games before the all-star game break.
The unit, which has been one of the worst in the league for most of the season, allowed just one goal on four opportunities against the Islanders and then kept the lethal Penguins off the board six times, including on a major.
“I think the penalty killing was beyond good,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said after last Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against Pittsburgh. “I think our guys did a really great job. You know these last few games the penalty kill has been very assertive and quick. It’s taking away the options but also pressuring at the same time.”
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Most impressive was the five-minute shorthanded situation late in the first period, when Zac Rinaldo was slapped with a major for boarding defensemen Chris Letang. What would have typically been a recipe for disaster, the Flyers allowed just two shots and had one of their best kills of the season.
They wiped out five more penalties and combined with their effort the day before on Long Island, the Flyers have successfully killed off nine of their last 10 penalties that spanned 23 minutes.
Berube thinks the recent improvement on the PK can be attributed to a couple of reasons.
“I think for the most part it is pressure and not giving teams time,” he said. “When you pressure, it’s a formatted pressure. Everyone has to be doing their job to make it work. And goalies need to make saves on a penalty kill. They got to be your best penalty killer. It always has been like that. It always will be.”
While goalie Ray Emery has been sharp the previous two games, the skaters are doing their jobs as well. The most notable have been fourth-line forwards Chris Vandevelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The pair has done an excellent job poking pucks away at the blue line and jabbing them down the ice.
“I have killed penalites quite a bit (in my career),” said Vandevelde, who has also scored a goal in three straight games and is a plus-2 over the stretch. “I killed all through college, even at the AHL level. You know I have been used to it, (I am) getting a good shot here and we’re doing a good job so far.”
It’s only been two games, though. The Flyers must prove it’s not an aberration