With yesterday's news that Ian Laperriere will miss the second round at least, and likely the rest of the season, the news is felt far and wide. Obviously, his loss isn't looked at in the same way as Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, but Laperriere is important - possibly just as important - to the success of the team as those two are.
Laperriere's importance cannot be looked at simply through on-ice success. His role off the ice could be even more important, as he's a veteran leader on a team that desperately needed more veteran leaders. The problem is that those of us outside the locker room are unable to tell just how big of an impact his loss will have in that respect.
What we can look at is his on-ice importance to the team. Since he isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse (he had 3 goals in the regular season, one more than David Laliberte), Laperriere's on-ice loss will be felt in the defensive zone. More specifically, Laperriere will be missed on the penalty kill.
In both the regular season and the playoffs, Laperriere has averaged the second most short-handed time per game. Those are a lot of minutes - and important minutes - that need to be replaced. Who will do it?
Jump for a look at the Flyers PK.
We'll start with a table (LOVE tables) that shows who is on the ice while the Flyers are short-handed.
|Player||RS SHTOI/G||P SHTOI/G|
The first column is Regular Season Short-Handed Time on Ice per game, and the second is for the playoffs. As you can see, the Flyers' top three penalty killers have stayed the same from the regular season to the playoffs. Their time on ice, however, has increased dramatically. This can be due to the small sample size (5 games), the large amount of time the Flyers spent on the PK against the Devils (6.4 times SH/G vs. 4.1 in the regular season), and the need to have your best penalty-killers out there in the playoffs.
Entering the second-round, the Flyers are without four of their top six regular season penalty killers. Only Blair Betts and Mike Richards will begin the second-round. The Flyers will also enter the second round with only 3 players who averaged more than one minute in PK time per game. This all adds up to a massive hole in the Flyers penalty kill.
So far, Claude Giroux has stepped up and taken more of the penalty-kill responsibility, which he'll need to continue doing. Having Mike Richards and Claude Giroux be the second PK-unit will work out fine, since Giroux is basically replacing Gagne's minutes. Also, Darroll Powe has taken on more of a role on the PK, which goes a long way toward helping out.
Will it be enough? Betts, Laperriere, Richards, and Gagne totaled 79:31 minutes worth of SHTOI in the playoffs. Take out Laperriere and Gagne's minutes - since neither will play in at least the first two games of the second round - and the team has 33:43 worth of SH time to fill. Giroux, despite playing in one extra game, still has over 2 minutes less than Gagne. On average, Giroux is one minute-per game behind Gagne. Not bad, and definitely able to be closed, but what about Laperriere?
If Darroll Powe can step up and eat some extra minutes, he'll still come far short of what Laperriere did. The more you look at the numbers, the more you realize there isn't any one guy who can replace Laperriere. When you also have to replace Gagne, it becomes even more difficult. It becomes painfully obvious that the Flyers need to find somebody who can play on the penalty kill, and they likely need to find more than one.
This brings us to the injury replacement. If Mika Pyorala was healthy (and with the team), he'd be the obvious choice. He averaged more PK time per game than Gagne in the regular season, so he is clearly able to fill in. Unfortunately, Pyorala has a broken collarbone and is unable to play. After that, the only player to average more than 20 seconds of PK time per game this season was Andreas Nodl. Yes, that Andreas Nodl.
#15 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
Feb 28, 1987
|2009 - Andreas Nodl||10||0||1||1||-2||0||0||0||0||0||2||0.0|
Yeah, it isn't impressive. But, there's really nobody else capable of playing on the PK. This team cannot get by with Betts, Richards, Giroux, and Powe on the penalty kill. Besides Nodl, Scott Hartnell has averaged the most SHTOI/G with a whopping 0:20 p/g in the regular season and 0:10 p/g in the postseason. Maybe he can up that to 45 or 50 seconds a game, but do you really want to saddle that guy with more responsibility? Not right now.
Without Nodl in the lineup, the Flyers only have 4 guys who can go out on the penalty kill. That's not nearly enough. Five guys probably isn't enough either, but when you lose your second best penalty-killer after already losing your 4th (Carter), 5th (Gagne), and 6th (Pyorala), how can you not replace him with a guy who can kill penalties?
Maybe hearing the name Andreas Nodl makes you shudder, but if there's one thing he's proven he can do at an NHL level, it's kill penalties. If ever you should be glad to have Nodl on your team, that time is now.