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A Time to Kill

Thursday, 11.29.2012 / 7:27 AM ET
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out
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GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Pride. Sacrifice. Hard work. It almost sounds like that commercial for the Marines, doesn’t it?

While hockey players aren’t putting their lives on the line for their country, there is a hint of similarity though when you take those concepts and put them into a shorthanded situation.

And while the Phantoms have been inconsistent through their first 18 games, compiling the same amount of wins as losses, there has been one constant that has anchored the squad – it’s penalty kill.

The Phantoms have been shorthanded 90 times so far this season, but have allowed just 13 power play goals. That’s a killing percentage of 85.6 percent, good enough for eighth best in the league.

They were even better before allowing two power play goals in a 10-second span Wednesday. But even then, one of the goals came while two-men short.

Their success in this area has come from a collection of players who like to play in the mold of their coaches – head coach Terry Murray, who is a defensive guru, and assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson, who handles the penalty kill for the Phantoms.

“There’s a whole lot of things that go into penalty killing,” Murray said. “You need good people. You need character. You need guys who want to work hard and are willing to sacrifice their bodies by blocking shots and who play heavy and hard at the right time.

“The hockey awareness that our group has is very good.”

That group is small, but it’s a well-respected group by Murray, Samuelsson and the rest of the team.

The four forwards usually called on to kill those penalties include a first pairing of captain Ben Holmstrom and defensive forward Rob Bordson followed by a dangerous second group consisting of Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.

Murray explained that even though a guy like Couturier is considered a top penalty killer when playing in the NHL, that he is on the second grouping because he wants to roll with those guys immediately after a kill is complete to try and build off the momentum of the kill with his best offensive players on the ice.

It’s been a sound strategy so far.

Defensively, all six rearguards have a hand in the kill, but usually guys like Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon are getting the big minutes, with big Oliver Lauridsen logging time as well.

“We work pretty well together out on the ice, but to be honest, it’s more in the detail,” Holmstrom said. “We do a lot of video work on the penalty kill. You have to take a lot of pride in the job too. That’s how you get to be successful.”

Bordson, who has become a real eye-opener for the Phantoms with his defensive tenacity both at even strength and on the penalty kill, said it’s something he has always loved to do and that it was something he learned to embrace through his coaches from childhood age all the way through the current season in the AHL.

“What I was always taught was to outwork the other team’s power play,” he said. “Usually the other team’s power play is made up of the most skilled guys so if you go out there with the right attitude and the proper work ethic and take away passing lanes and make good clears – you can frustrate skill guys because you force them to work harder.

“There are a lot of little things too. Quick shifts, blocking shots, knowing tendencies. You have to pay attention to detail on video. I love it. I love shutting the other team’s top line down for two minutes and then skate back to the bench knowing you’ve done a good job.”

Which the Phantoms have done this season.

In games when the Phantoms have won the special teams battle (outscored their opponents on special teams) the Phantoms are undefeated this season (4-0). They’ve won five more times when they’ve limited the opponent to one power play goal or fewer and ended up even in the overall special teams battle.

Conversely, when they have lost that battle, they are winless (0-4).

Considering the power play has only clicked 14.6 percent of the time and ranks in the bottom third of the league, even more pressure is put on the penalty kill to win those close battles.

“We’ve had some games where we’ve gone 7-for-7 on the penalty kill and then we win by a goal… that’s huge,” Bordson said. “Special teams is a big part of the sport nowadays. You almost have score at least one on the power play and shut the other team down entirely to win games because even-strength goals are so hard to come by. Our penalty killers have done a good job with that so far.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 52 16 29 -8 45
J. Voracek 52 8 34 -3 42
W. Simmonds 52 19 16 -7 35
B. Schenn 50 14 15 -2 29
S. Gostisbehere 34 9 19 3 28
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 51 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 52 4 10 -7 14
M. Del Zotto 50 4 9 -10 13
M. Raffl 52 6 6 2 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 14 7 .915 2.70
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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