Flyers vs. Maple Leafs: A closer look at the opening night power play

If Wednesday night was any indication, we're gonna see more where this came from. - Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Hint: it was good.

One of the big stories out of Wednesday night's season-opening loss to Toronto was the Flyers' power play. The team got seven chances with the man advantage, and only buried one of them in the net (for the team's only goal of the night, of course).

From what I saw in the immediate aftermath of the game, there seemed to be a pretty wide variety of opinions on the power play:

  • that it was a bit disappointing given all of the talent out there
  • that it started out well and got worse as the game went on
  • that it was great and only scored once (as opposed to more) because it happened to run into a brick wall in goal named Jonathan Bernier.

I tend to lean somewhere between the second and third opinions there. I thought it looked good as a whole and generated some good chances, but it seemed like Toronto started stifling some of the entries there towards the end of the contest. Maybe the guys were just tired from being out there so much. Who knows.

Anywho. Let's look a little bit at some of the specifics.

They're better than 1 for 7

The Flyers spent 13:08 on the power play on Wednesday, with all but two seconds of that coming in the standard five-on-four advantage. In that time, the team got 13 shots on net (for one goal, of course), had nine shots that missed the net, and five more that were blocked.

If you were to take those numbers and put them on a per-60-minutes pace, the Flyers would've put up 59.4 shots on goal, 100.5 Fenwick attempts (shots on goal + missed shots), and 123.4 Corsi attempts (Fenwick + shots blocked by the opponent) per 60 minutes.

How good is that? Let's put it this way:

Category Flyers on Wednesday Top-ranked NHL team in 2012-13 in each category
SOG / 60 59.4 58.8
Fenwick / 60 100.5 80.3
Corsi / 60 123.4 111.2

Every single one of those marks would have led the league on a by-team basis last year.

Now, that's not to say this level of dominance is sustainable. It's not. Heck, three other teams have posted higher Corsi-per-60 rates on the PP than the Flyers so far this season (c/o extraskater.com, as of Thursday). So this isn't meant to say to expect the Flyers to be by far the best PP in the league this year.

But we can pretty easily say that the Flyers' power play was working quite well on the whole on Wednesday, and if their actual talent is anywhere in the remote area code of what we saw there, they'll score on more than one out of every seven power plays moving forward. No question.

The second unit doesn't suck anymore!

That's one good thing. The other immediate takeaway -- as we all anticipated would be the case -- was that the Flyers actually got some support from their second power play unit.

Last season, the combination of Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Kimmo Timonen, and (usually) Scott Hartnell was an outstanding unit that almost single-handedly pulled the Flyers to a top-five power play percentage. The second group, which changed players in and out on a regular basis and basically had no consistent offensive contributors on it other than maybe Matt Read and Brayden Schenn? Not quite as much.

Surprise, surprise: having Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit helps out a bit.

Here were the five-man combinations of players who registered at least one shot attempt on the power play in Wednesday's game, and how many attempts each of them put up. The group marked with an * was the one that scored a goal.

Players Shot Attempts
Simmonds Hartnell Giroux Voracek Timonen 14
Schenn Read Meszaros Lecavalier Streit 5
Schenn Read Giroux Lecavalier Streit 4*
Couturier Read Giroux Lecavalier Streit 2
Schenn Hartnell Giroux Voracek Timonen 1
Couturier Read Meszaros Lecavalier Streit 1

You can see there that the primary five-man unit was on-ice for just over half of the team's attempts, and that same group with Schenn in Simmonds' place picked up one more. The second unit (generally denoted by Lecavalier's and Streit's presence) did the rest.

Let's summarize that here. ("Ice time" as given below is a little bit of a guess, based on power play ice time of various players on the first and second units, but it should be fairly close to their actual ice times.)

Ice time % of PP ice time Shot Attempts % of PP shot attempts
PP1 6:50 52.03% 15 55.56%
PP2 6:18 47.97% 12 44.44%

The first unit got just over half of the ice time and about 56% of the team's shot attempts on the PP. For a point of comparison: last season, of the Flyers' 324 shot attempts on the 5-on-4 power play, 74.1% of them came from the first unit**.

So that's a great balance, and one that hopefully is a sign of things to come: that the Flyers will be able to send constant, dangerous pressure to the net on the PP with all of their power play personnel, instead of just the best four or five guys.

The Giroux factor

Now, the one big caveat here is that Claude Giroux actually spent a bit of time on both power play units. Ideally, that's not something you want to do with your superstar every game -- Giroux played 26:02 in total and 9:34 on the power play on Wednesday, both numbers that will probably not be that high on a regular basis -- and we may not see him on the second PP that often moving forward. So how'd that group do without him?

Ice time % of ice time Shot Attempts % of shot attempts
PP w/28 on ice 9:34 72.84% 21 77.78%
PP w/o 28 on ice 3:34 27.16% 6 22.22%
PP2 w/28 on ice 2:44 43.39% 6 50.00%
PP2 w/o 28 on ice 3:34 56.61% 6 50.00%

In a shocking turn of events (read: not shocking), both the power play as a whole and just the second unit were better at getting shots on the net with Giroux than without him. But the gap there wasn't quite as high as you may expect -- certainly not as high as it was at times last season. Maybe Giroux will continue to get some spot duty on the second group and it'll make them that much better, but I have a fairly high degree of confidence that a second power play group anchored by Lecavalier, Streit, and Matt Read can keep the pressure on.

** "Shot attempts from the first unit" were, in this case, defined as attempts that took place with at least three of Simmonds, Giroux, Voracek and Timonen on the ice.

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