FLYERS MOST SPECIAL; BRYZ'S SCHEDULE; RENO LOVE; WHY WELLWOOD IS HERE
NEW YORK – Peter Laviolette was in the mood to talk this morning – and he had a lot to say.
It wasn’t anything particularly inflammatory. Nor was it anything particularly earth-shattering.
But it was particularly interesting through-and-through.
Some of his most thoughtful comments came regarding the amount of penalties that are called in games involving the Flyers.
“I think we just got to come to the realization that our penalty kill needs to be real good,” Laviolette said. “I think we should spend more time working on the penalty kill than evaluating the penalties. Trust me, it’s not like we don’t go in there and say, ‘Don’t be disciplined,’ and it’s not that I don’t think the players are being disciplined, I do. I just think that in our games we have to kill penalties… and we get [ a lot of] power plays too. I don’t know what it is… Really.”
The Flyers have been shorthanded 96 times this season, tied for second-most in the NHL. Conversely, they have also been on the power play 96 times – also second-most in the league.
“Sometimes you look around the league and you see games where there are two power plays for and two power plays against,” Laviolette said. “That rarely happens with us. We usually have five power plays for and [against]. I don’t know if it’s the style, the color of the jerseys, or what that brings it out in both opponents?
"I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I really can’t. I think the referees do a good job and call a good game but we end up in the box [a lot] and we end up on the power play [a lot]. It’s both. We want to be disciplined. We really do. We want to stay out of the box. We work on the penalty kill and the power play a lot because it seems like we are on them a lot. Both of them.”
And with a lot of practice, the Flyers are among the best in the league in both categories.
They rank ninth in the NHL in power play success (20.8 percent) and in penalty kill success (84.4 percent).
They have spent 302 minutes and six seconds on special teams through 23 games, or 21.8 percent of the time, the biggest total in the NHL.
Ilya Bryzgalov will make his 22nd start of the season in 24 games this season for the Flyers.
When asked about why such a big workload, Laviolette had another cogent response.
“I think you have to look at it as you go,” he said of his goalie schedule. “We weren’t in a situation back in the beginning of February to rest anybody. What good was resting anybody for the playoffs if you don’t make the playoffs? It’s kind of been all hands on deck and we’ve had to put our guys in there and play them extra minutes or extra time or starts in a row for a goaltender – it doesn’t matter – we needed to get back to where we needed to be.
“If we continue to climb up the ladder, then I think you can look at it and assess the situation, but I’d be guessing at this point as to what the future holds.”
Ergo, Brian Boucher won’t get a start until Laviolette is comfortable with where the team is situated in the standings to give Bryzgalov a rest.
I know this one is going to aggravate some fervent Twitter followers, but Laviolette again had high praise for the play of Zac Rinaldo.
Laviolette said Rinaldo hasn’t just been an improved player this season, but really started elevating his game to this level last season.
And while the advanced metric stat geeks will argue otherwise, Rinaldo definitely serves a meaningful purpose on the Flyers.
“I think Zac made good decisions last year,” Laviolette said. “If you think back through the course of the year, not always, but there were times he played with Sean [Couturier] and Max [Talbot] on a checking line and we put them out there against the top line of the opponent.
“We have a lot of trust in Zac. I think he’s really tried to handle how he’s played the game and use his physicality to his advantage without crossing the line. He really seems to be working on that.”
Laviolette also admitted that he’d like to see if Rinaldo can play more minutes, but doesn’t want to experiment with ideas at this point in the season.
“We came into the year trying to expand his role a little bit and that’s still the plan because we think a lot of Zac – I certainly do,” he said. “But we found ourselves behind the eight ball at the start of the season and there’s not a lot of wiggle room for mistakes so you are less apt to try new things or experience new things when every shift is so important to a win and the points are so important to an organization. But there’s a lot of trust with Zac. We’re real happy with the way he’s playing. He’s a smart kid. He’s a quick learner. He’s a talented player. The hitting is obvious, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
Mike Knuble will replace Zolnierczyk in the lineup and Wellwood will be a healthy scratch. He becomes the only healthy extra forward and is likely here – barring an injury to another forward – until Matt Read is ready to return.
Read skated with the Flyers again Tuesday morning and is looking closer and closer to a return.
Read said Monday that there is a chance that he could play this coming weekend.
With Wellwood being recalled and Shane Harper being sent down to Trenton of the ECHL, the Adirondack Phantoms now only have 12 forwards on their active roster.
General manager Paul Holmgren told me there are no pending roster moves to help the Phantoms with an extra forward at this point, but the Phantoms don’t play again until Friday, so it’s possible that either Wellwood or Harper could be back in Glens Falls in time for that game Friday, with the final decision coming down to Read’s health.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37