Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Breaking Down the First Round: Special Teams

Since the lockout power plays and penalty killing have become more and more important - but it's always been a key ingredient of a successful playoff team. Time to break down Special Teams...

Power Play Power: Philadelphia is a scary, scary team when they have the extra man and have been among the league leaders throughout the regular season in power play effectiveness. In fact as the regular season came to a close they were being held off only by a pesky bunch of Canadiens for first in the NHL (although the gap between first and second was a significant 3%). As for the Caps, they trended up as the season went on and after toying with the top five in the league they finished out the year a respectable 10th, 18.8% compared to Philly's 21.8%. Advantage: Flyers

Down a Man: Maybe it's something in the water in Philly. Maybe they're just so good that being down a man doesn't affect them that much...or maybe they're just used to having someone in the penalty box. Philly's penalty killing far outranks the skill of the Caps (although again, that's an area that has trended up this season and should improve when Dave Steckel returns), finishing the year 10th best in the league at 83.2% effective compared to the 25th ranked Caps at just over 80%. Advantage: Flyers

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline: It should surprise no one to learn that the Flyers were among the most penalized teams in the league this season - and that's just minor penalties. Their 388 times in the box was tied for second highest in the league. The Caps, on the other hand, have been a much more disciplined team and ranked 18th in the league in that area. 27 times this season the Flyers took at least 6 penalties in a single game...ten more than the Caps. Advantage: Capitals

Individual Efforts: The Caps may have the league's most prolific scorer of power play goals in Alexander Ovechkin (a franchise record-tying 22 on the season) but the Flyers have had some individual standouts in their own right. In fact, they have three of the top thirty power play scorers in their lineup - and Daniel Briere's 37 power play points equals the total output of Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom's 25 points and Mike Green's 23 were good enough to crack the top 70... Advantage: Flyers

Power Outage: Nothing kills the momentum of a power play more than a shorthanded goal, and both teams have been just about in the middle of the road when it comes to giving up these heartbreakers. The Caps were bitten 8 times this season, the Flyers 6...of course two of the goals against Washington came in one game courtesy of Daniel Alfredsson and the Senators. Advantage: Even

Striking While Injured: The Flyers may not give up a lot of shorthanded goals - but they do know how to score them. They finished in a tie for third in the league with a whopping 13 shorthanded goals on the season, besting the Caps in that area by 8. Mike Richards has five shorthanded goals all by himself, equalling the total output of the entire Caps' lineup. That Washington penalty kill will need to be on the lookout for the quick breakout pass, that's for sure. Advantage: Flyers

Road Weariness vs. Home Cooking: Playing at home seems to juice up the Caps' power play, which jumped up to around 20% this season when hosting teams at the Phone Booth. Away from DC, however, it dipped below 17%, something that won't make going into a hostile (or THE hostile) environment of Wachovia Center any easier. Philly, for what it's worth, was 23% effective at home and just about 20% away...but both markers were ranked third in the league. Advantage: Flyers

Getting Testy: It wouldn't be the Broad Street Bullies without a few fisticuffs, right? The Flyers drew 65 fighting majors this season, 12 misconducts, 6 game misconducts and 2 match penalties...and had PIM totals over twenty minutes 25 times. Not surprisingly the bulk of this special sin bin time comes against the Penguins. The Caps weren't exactly shy, just...less feisty, racking up 35 fighting majors, one misconduct and two game misconducts. Advantage: ...does anyone really win this one?

Bottom Line
The Broad Street Bullies may have disappeared for a year or two but even with the addition of well-known softie Daniel Briere, they're back and more obnoxious than ever. Their tenacity at drawing penalties, misconducts, and suspensions is balanced out only by their skilled attack when someone is in the penalty box - regardless of whether that someone is wearing orange and black or not.

As for the Caps, it'll be interesting to see how they match up against a Flyers team that has been, on paper, a more dominant special teams club. The Caps have improved over the beginning of the season but have hit rough patches in both the power play and penalty killing departments - neither is helped by their inability to score 5 on 3, or their inability to kill off a 2 man advantage.

Overall Advantage: Sorry, Caps fans...this one goes to Philly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

in a series vs philly fighting skills are especially important. they will run you over if given a chance. a brashear in the roster surely helps with that. he is a top class heavy and feared among the league. he has the numbers of philly heavies..

edge caps in this one :)