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A Time To Kill

Phantoms rely heavily on the penalty kill to pave the path to success

Thursday, 11.29.2012 / 6:23 PM / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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A Time To Kill
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. \u2013 Pride. Sacrifice. Hard work. It almost sounds like that commercial for the Marines, doesn\u2019t it?\r\n\r\nWhile hockey players aren\u2019t 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.\r\n\r\nAnd 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 \u2013 it\u2019s penalty kill.\r\n\r\nThe Phantoms have been shorthanded 90 times so far this season, but have allowed just 13 power play goals. That\u2019s a killing percentage of 85.6 percent, good enough for eighth best in the league.
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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

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 48 14 31 3 90 171 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 50 17 41 11 58
C. Giroux 49 16 36 7 52
M. Streit 50 7 28 0 35
W. Simmonds 50 18 13 -4 31
B. Schenn 50 11 20 -2 31
S. Couturier 50 11 12 0 23
M. Read 50 3 15 -8 18
M. Del Zotto 38 4 12 -6 16
M. Raffl 40 12 3 6 15
V. Lecavalier 36 7 7 -9 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 10 12 6 .922 2.40
R. Emery 8 9 1 .887 3.38
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