Think how much different the Flyers’ postseason life might have been last year if they had done a better job in shootouts.
By itself it wouldn’t have assured the Flyers any greater success than the fallen Phillies or stumbling Eagles, since it wouldn’t have mattered past the end of the regular season.
But think about it.
Peter Laviolette is.
“It certainly deserves attention,” Laviolette said. “Based on even last year, that might’ve been the difference. If we’d done a better job there, we might’ve finished first overall.”
Instead, their 3-7 shootout record (26th in the NHL last season), with the 29th-ranked save percentage among goalies, undoubtedly cost them the top seed in the East and a favorable playoff matchup. And this is hardly a one-year trend. Since the shootout began in 2006, the Flyers have ranked 15th, 28th, 22nd, 19th and 22nd, respectively.
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But the Flyers are hoping that will change, with Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds added to the mix while Ilya Bryzgalov handles the load in the net.
“Last year, when we would score, we’d get scored upon more,” said Danny Briere, who has scored on 40 percent of his shootout attempts as a Flyer. “And when we didn’t score, our goalies would make the saves but then let one in. We have to get in better sync. The last few years, it seemed at the end of the year those two to three extra points would’ve helped us.”
No one knows if greater shootout success will pay dividends come playoff time. But the Flyers would love to find out.
What to watch
1. Vancouver will attempt to match the 2009 Pens, who shook off losing to Detroit by winning the Stanley Cup the following year. Prior to that, you have to go back to Wayne Gretzky’s 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers.
2. Daniel and Henrik Sedin aren’t just the NHL’s only set of twins, they’re among the top players in the game. Both have won the Art Ross scoring trophy as well as the league’s MVP. They’re lethal on the power play, accounting for 26 goals.
3. The Sedins and Ryan Kesler (15 PPGs) aren’t the only ones to watch on the power play. The Flyers figure to be vastly improved with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who has 181 career power play goals, and the slick-passing Claude Giroux.