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The Two O’Clock Number: 5

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Two ... functional ... power play units? That’s wild.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

5 — the number of 5-on-4 power play goals the Flyers have scored, in seven games so far this season, without Claude Giroux on the ice.

We’ll just cut right to the point on this one. The Flyers have already scored more goals via their second power play unit (which we’ll define for the purposes of this piece as “any power play time where Claude Giroux is not on the ice”) than they did in the entire 2017-18 NHL season, and they’re creeping up on doing the same for 2016-17 and 2018-19. Behold, every season since Giroux became the team’s top offensive weapon:

Flyers Power Play Goals, 2011-19

Season Flyers 5v4 Goals Flyers 5v4 Goals With Giroux On Ice Flyers PP2 Goals
Season Flyers 5v4 Goals Flyers 5v4 Goals With Giroux On Ice Flyers PP2 Goals
2011-12 59 36 23
2012-13 34 27 7
2013-14 55 43 12
2014-15 53 42 11
2015-16 46 33 13
2016-17 49 44 5
2017-18 48 45 3
2018-19 38 32 6
2019-20 8 3 5

No, the Flyers’ second power play is not going to keep scoring at this pace. That unit alone is on a 59-goals-per-82 games pace that will surely not hold up as some shooting percentages fall back to earth. I would love to believe that this group will continue shooting 33%, but just like how the Flyers weren’t and aren’t going to continue shooting at five percent at 5-on-5 forever, the second power play unit is not going to be able to keep this clip up.

Still, there are two things worth saying here. One, it seems like the Flyers might — just might! — have a second power play unit that can be used as something more than a quick rest for their typically-excellent first power play unit. Even if it can just be solid, that’s a massive improvement, as we can see above. Cut its shooting percentage down to a third of its current rate, and if the opportunities and shot rates stay the same it would still score at about a 20-goals-per-82 pace — not far off from where it was in 2011-12, the best season on this list. There’s a reason why Vigneault (per BSH Radio’s Own Charlie O’Connor over at The Athletic) has insisted on calling the group “Coots’ unit”, rather than “the second unit” — right now, they deserve equal billing to the top guns.

And two, even if this is just a major blip on the radar and the unit crashes all the way back down to earth, like it has in some previous seasons ... we were due a hot streak from this group, right? We’re two years removed from the Flyers being outscored on the power play when Giroux wasn’t on the ice. We can enjoy this for now. (But let’s hope we keep getting the chance to enjoy it moving forward.)

All references to the power play are at 5-on-4 only. Data courtesy of moneypuck.com’s data tool.