Flyers' power play lacking at home

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andrej Meszaros had a goal and an assist against Nashville.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andrej Meszaros had a goal and an assist against Nashville.
Posted: January 20, 2014

SHOOOOOOOOOOT!

Watch any power play at the Wells Fargo Center - either in person or on television - and it is the one word you'll hear over and over again, fans urging their favorite players to stop passing in a circle and finally put the puck on net.

It is a phenomenon not wholly unique to Philadelphia, but also really not all that common around visiting NHL arenas. It is a topic that always draws a laugh inside the Flyers locker room.

They hear it. And they want to score, too.

"They always want you to shoot," Wayne Simmonds was saying recently. "But it's almost like they don't see the guy standing there in front of you, ready to block the shot. We're not stupid."

Winger Jake Voracek took is one step further. After a particularly satisfying win in Vancouver last month, Voracek (@jachobe) sent a tweet poking fun at those in search of instant gratification on the power play.

"Love the people sitting at home, drinking beer or coke . . . and yelling 'Shoot the puck you idiot!' " Voracek tweeted.

Could that collective groan of 19,537 help explain why the Flyers' power-play struggles so much in South Philadelphia?

Including Thursday night's game-saving power-play tally with 1:24 to play, the Flyers are a staggering 11-for-88 (12.5 percent) with the man advantage at the Wells Fargo Center. That ranks them 27th in the NHL.

They are a different animal on the road, having scored at least one power-play goal in four straight games away from home. Overall, they are 23-for-94 (24.5 percent) on the road, good for fifth in the NHL.

Combining home and road, the Flyers have a total power play success rate of 18.7 percent, which has them ranked 16th in the league. It would be significantly higher if they could convert more opportunities at home.

So far, with a 12-8-1 record at home, it hasn't hurt the Flyers too badly.

Still, it doesn't take advanced statistics and graphs to show that more than 0.52 power-play goals per game will translate into more wins for the home crowd.

Flyers coach Craig Berube said he could fix his team's power-play woes at home if he could discern a difference in style.

"I don't really think it's one thing," Berube said. "Whether players feel more pressure at home, or they're trying to be too pretty at times instead of just shooting, I don't know. It's got to improve at home. It definitely does."

Berube isn't the only coach facing a mystifying problem. Teams should be better on the power play at home, in front of their own fans, than in a hostile environment rooting for a kill.

The Flyers have the second-largest gap in production (12 percent) between home and road on the power play. Only Ottawa, with the No. 1-ranked road power play, and 28th-ranked home power play, has a larger disconnect (14.8 percent difference).

The Devils (11.7 percent) and Rangers (8.9 percent) have similar dips at home. Three others teams - Anaheim (11.9 percent), Edmonton (11.6 percent) and Toronto (11.5 percent) - experience similar deficiencies, but they are better at home, where it makes a little more sense.

At even strength, the Flyers have scored only one more goal on the road this season than they have at home.

"Sometimes, it's just a matter of overcomplicating things and trying to make the extra fancy play," Luke Schenn surmised, even though he's not a member of the power play. "Sometimes, it goes to every player, even 5-on-5 when you're at home, you try to put on that extra show for the hometown crowd. It's obviously not as successful."

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros says he feels more comfortable. The proof is in his point totals. Meszaros, 28, netted his second multi-point game in 8 days against Nashville on Thursday night. He now has seven points in his last five games - four more than Claude Giroux in that span.

Berube says the biggest difference is confidence.

"He's confident with the puck, he's doing good things at the blue line with it, jumping up on the play like he did on that goal," Berube said of Meszaros' last-second tally in the second period.

"He's got confidence."

What Berube didn't mention is that Meszaros' activity at the blue line is all part of his system, with forwards activating pressure in front of the opposing goaltender once they get the puck to the blue line.

"We want to use our 'D' a lot in the offensive zone," Berube said. "I think it's more [important] now than it ever has been. Your 'D' needs to join the rush, you've got to get [play] spread out with the way teams play defense, blocking shots."

Only a handful of Flyers practiced yesterday, facing another set of three games in 4 days starting tonight against the Islanders . . . Craig Berube said he was pleased with Steve Downie's first game back after two straight as a healthy scratch: "For the ice time he got, it wasn't a whole lot, he did a good job. He was physical, made a couple nice plays" . . . The Islanders have won nine of their last 11 road games dating back to Dec. 9. The Flyers have gained at least a point (3-0-2) in five straight home games against New York.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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