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The Flyers solution to the Rangers blocking shots starts with their feet

Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 3:55 PM ET / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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VOORHEES, N.J. – Steve Mason will start Game 4 for the Flyers.

You’re not surprised? Worst kept secret of the week? Fine, consider it reported. Now, let’s move on to other, more pressing issues related to what lay ahead in Game 4 of the Flyers-Rangers series.

Namely, the impending changes for the Flyers as they try to get more shots through to the Rangers net and not blocked in front of it – especially on the power play.

There will be speculation, of course, that the Flyers will change their system. That rather than run that power play through Claude Giroux on the half wall and Kimmo Timonen at the point that they will try something different – like running it through Jake Voracek on the other half wall instead.

That, of course, wouldn’t be correct.

Sure, the Flyers want Voracek to touch the puck more on the power play, but they also want Wayne Simmonds to touch it more and Scott Hartnell to touch it more. After all, those are the two guys who are so good in front of the net with the man advantage.

The question is, how are they going to do that? The answer is, with their feet.


Let’s let Voracek explain it:

Jake Voracek said the changes on the power play are all about movement and not necessarily about a change in strategy.

“[Giroux] and Kimmo are still going to run the power play,” he said. “We’ve been pretty successful for three years like that and we shouldn’t let what happened in one game change that. The way we need to get better against [the Rangers] on the power play and make a difference in the game is by moving our legs more. We worked on that a lot today.

“If you move more, you find there are more seams and passing lanes open up. If we’re moving, then their penalty kill has to move too. They have no choice. So we have to move our legs on the power play. If we move our legs, they move with us and that opens up the lanes you need to score goals.”

So if there’s a change on the power play of any kind, it’s going to be with skating, and not the set up. It’s still going to be a 1-3-1 setup with Timonen on the point, Giroux, Hartnell and Voracek across the ice at the dots and Simmonds as a net front presence.

However, look for Giroux and Voracek to “drift” a bit more. You’ll see them up at the point and further down low along the wall and maybe even sneaking into the penalty kill box from time to time. Also, look for Hartnell and Simmonds to come out to the high slot as part of a rotation.

Rather than be static, the power play will now look more like a basketball team running a play with crisp passing, cutting players, screens and plenty of options.

“You want the penalty kill to start scrambling,” said Mark Streit, who mans on the point on the second power play unit. “We need them to start thinking instead of just sitting there and waiting for us to shoot through them. We have to be smarter and quicker.”

And maybe play a game of cat and mouse with the Rangers killers who are quick to get in the way of shots and passes.

“Sometimes you have to play mind games,” said Andrew MacDonald, who also plays on the second unit. “Guys who block shots want to try and read when you are going to shoot it and sometimes they’re more aggressive in the playoffs.

“So, maybe you want to fake it a couple times and take a step to one side or the other. Maybe you want to fake it once. Maybe the third time you don’t fake it at all and get a shot through. However you do it, you want to keep them guessing and wondering if they want to block the shot or not.”

MacDonald should know as he led the NHL in blocked shots in the regular season.

Andrew MacDonald has one of the three goals in this series scored by Flyers defensemen. However, he said it's up to him and his mates to get more shots through from the point.

But, more importantly, especially for the defensemen on the point, shots don’t have to necessarily be right on net, but they have to get through to the net area.

“Look, sometimes you want to shoot just off line or you don’t mind a shot being blocked in front of the crease,” MacDonald said. “You get those shots near the net then you have guys who can hunt the loose pucks and put them in. Sometimes a shot will hit someone and take a fortunate bounce too.”

It’s not just the power play though.

The Flyers want to make sure they keep the Rangers guessing at even strength too, but they want to do it in different ways.

“You are trying to beat someone one-on-one and then look for something to open up somewhere else,” Voracek said. “We did a good job with the way we played in the second period of Game 3. If we would have been able to get that second goal there, it would have been different. We have to play the whole game [Friday] like we played the second period.

“At even strength, everyone sees the game differently though. There are a million different situations in a game. Everyone has to decide what they want to do and how to handle it. If you see a lane, you might want to shoot it. If you think there is something else you might want to try to do something more. Everybody is different. I don’t think we have to simplify it more. We already simplified it and took 80 shots [32 on goal]. We just didn’t score. Now, we have to do that.”


NOTES: The Flyers practiced with the same line combinations, defensive pairings and power play units that they used in Game 3… Scott Hartnell on Rangers fourth liner Dan Carcillo: “He’s an agitator who knows how to get under people’s skin… He scored a big goal but he was frustrated too because he took some penalties too and I don’t think [his] team wants him to take those penalties. If we stay after him he’s liable to take a few more of those. He’s a great kid and I still stay in contact with him, but it’s Philly vs. the Rangers and we want the upper hand…” Hartnell also had an interesting comment on the amount of penalties called in the series so far: “It’s weird. My penalty, I think I let up on the guy. If I really wanted to hit him from behind into the boards I would have followed through and made sure he wouldn’t have gotten up. I didn’t. I touched him a little bit but I don’t think those kind of penalties should be called… There have been chintzy calls both ways and their power play has been better than ours so far.”

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




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


C. Giroux 53 16 29 -8 45
J. Voracek 53 8 35 -3 43
W. Simmonds 53 20 16 -7 36
B. Schenn 51 15 15 1 30
S. Gostisbehere 35 9 20 4 29
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 51 9 9 -5 18
M. Raffl 53 7 7 5 14
S. Laughton 52 4 10 -7 14
M. Del Zotto 51 4 9 -8 13
S. Mason 13 14 7 .917 2.65
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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