After Video Review is a feature that I will run a few times throughout the Flyers’ season. I’ve played hockey for about ten years and one of the things I enjoy (or get frustrated over) about watching the Flyers is the strategies they employ in different situations. After having the chance to attend a few Flyers games this season and being able to take in the entire ice at once, one of the things that jumped out at me was how the Flyers attempt to enter the offensive zone on power plays.
Dating back to last season, one of the Flyers’ main strategies to gain the offensive zone has been to rush the puck up to the blue line, come to a complete stop, pivot, and pass the puck back to the point man streaking up the middle. In the picture below, Timonen has carried the puck to the Toronto line where Hartnell and Simmonds are holding.
Giroux has circled back in the defensive zone and is coming up late to receive Timonen’s pass and gain the blue line.
The theory with this strategy is it draws the defenders to the puck carrier and subsequently opens up space for the other four players on offense.
This gives the streaking player the option to shoot (if he gets a clean look) or pass to one of his open teammates and get the power play set up. In this particular sequence, Giroux elected to shoot, resulting in a fairly easy glove save for Bernier.
Later on the same power play, Streit brought the puck up towards the offensive zone before laying it off for Read to rush the puck in.
Unlike Giroux, Read immediately passes the puck to Lecavalier, but continues to drive up the center of the ice. This allows Vinny to get set up on the half boards while the rest of the Flyers skate to positions to get set up.
This eventually led to a Flyers chance as Meszaros took a shot with B. Schenn buzzing through the crease.
It appears that the Flyers value this strategy because of the options it allows them once they gain the zone. As always, there are some drawbacks to using this strategy. In a perfect world, the Flyers would have all five of their players hitting the blue line with speed. This would cause problems for the team killing the penalty, as three of the four penalty killers are often passive until the attacking team gains the line. With the Flyers’ strategy, they have three of their own players either stopped at the blue line, or coasting while they wait for the late man to gain the blue line. Theoretically, this ends up making them easier to defend, as the penalty killers aren’t put on their heels by the on-rushing forwards.
The other issue I see with this system is its potential to go offsides. Ever since my first practice, the coaches drilled into our heads “when you’re skating towards the blue line, get the puck into the zone”. The lesson being that doing something fancy at the line will more often than not cause an offsides. Making east to west passes or drop passes at the blue line requires a lot of discipline on the Flyers part to stay onside. Obviously, this is something that the Flyers practice and they’re comfortable with it, but when there are three players trying to time their zone entry along with the streaking puck carrier, there is a greater chance of causing an offside.
The Flyers power play currently sits at 25th in the league at 11.9%. However, they have scored a PPG in three of their past four games and are operating at a 21.4% clip over that span.
If there’s any area of Flyers strategy you’d like to see covered in the future, please let me know in the comments.