Breaking down the Bullies: Increased offense from more net presence

Simmer in front

Simmonds is a monster around the net… pic c/o Amy Irvin http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography

For better or for worse, this bunch of Flyers seems to be putting it together as the season comes to a close. Even with a severely depleted blue line, they have been able to put together a stretch of 4-1 hockey for just the second time this season. It may seem bizarre, but it shouldn’t be meant as a slight to injured defenders in the pressbox. Instead, the signs point to a resurgence of offense from this talented group of players.

The last time (and only other time) they were able to go 4-1, they managed to put up 21 goals in that span. This time, they accomplished the same feat – while also getting shut out against the New Jersey Devils last Thursday. There is only one other time this year where the team scored more goals over that same period of time, and sure enough it also led to a positive result in the record books (3-2).

This offensive outburst allows the entire team to shift its focus to defense, giving a shorthanded blue line more support. Playing with the lead also takes the edge off a bit (much like being out of the playoffs). So what are some of the things they are doing that has led them to grip their sticks a little more loosely? It seems to revolve around an increased presence in front of the net.

Crowd

Goalies don’t like options… pic c/o Amy Irvin http://www.Facebook.com/38Photography

First and foremost, they seem to be going to the goal with much greater intensity. There were many times this season where a rebound was left in front, but the team was unable to capitalize due to a lack of net presence. This is the Philadelphia Flyers we are talking about, notorious for their ability to be bullies! Instead, they seemed to be ok with keeping their offensive play confided to the perimeter. They may have finally broken from this mold.

A perfect example of this increased net presence came last night versus the Boston Bruins. Tied at one in the first, Wayne Simmonds threw a shot on goal that might have bounced harmlessly to the corner earlier in the season. This time around, Matt Read was flying down the wing in the direction of the goal, putting himself in the perfect position to knock the juicy rebound out of midair and give them the lead for good. These are the type of things the Flyers need to keep doing with more consistency if they want to continue to light up the score sheet.

Besides getting bodies to the net, they have also been getting the puck into this high-scoring area as well. When they kept their offense to the outside it left the middle of the ice wide open, a daunting task for any pass that wasn’t directly to the side of the player with control. When you get players in front you cut the distance of the pass potentially in half. You also force the defense to recoil and react, only further adding to the chaos occurring in the goalies face.

Through this area of the ice, the Flyers have finally been able to develop a bit of an offensive flow in a season devoid of any at all. It will be interesting to see if they continue to keep this up going forward, ending this sour year on a sweet note. As they pile up the wins, you wonder if there might not need to be too much re-tooling of the game plan when this season ends after all.

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