The Philadelphia Flyers are still, statistically, the best team in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the man advantage. They've scored 13 power-play goals on 34 chances for a 38.2 percent conversion rate.
The caveat, of course, is that 12 of those goals came against the porous defense and accommodating goaltending of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1. And while the New Jersey Devils had their own struggles on the PK against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals — the Panthers had nine power-play goals in seven games — they've been much better through two games in Round 2.
As Game 3 between the teams looms on Thursday night, John Boruk of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia wonders if the Flyers can win this semifinal battle if the power play doesn't overcome the Devils' kill:
During the regular season, the Flyers were 3 for 33 on the power play against the Devils, which computes to a 9-percent success rate. Through the first two games of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series, the Flyers are 1 for 11, and, once again, converting just 9 percent of their opportunities. Why should we expect anything better, considering the production is exactly the same from the regular season through the first two games of the Devils series?
Now that the scene shifts back to the Prudential Center for Games 3 and 4, it should be noted that no place in the NHL yielded fewer power play goals for the opposition (even though, it should be fairly pointed out, the CONSOL Energy Center was the second toughest arena for an opposing power play and that didn't exactly stand in the Flyers way).
What do the Flyers need to do to start terrorizing Marty Brodeur while the Devils are short-handed?
Here are Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell on the Flyers' power-play struggles:
The other side of this equation is the Devils' penalty kill, and it's found its groove again. The Star-Ledger asked what the keys to the turnaround have been:
"Maybe just regrouping a little bit," Zach Parise, a relentless penalty-killer, said. "One of the biggest things is we've done a better job on faceoffs. It's so important when you win that initial draw and you get that initial clear. Right away there are 10-15 seconds off the draw… I think that's one of our strengths, not allowing teams to set up."
[Coach Pete] DeBoer said the PK was the key in Game 2.
"I thought our PK, like it was during the regular season, was a factor in the game," he said. "It took away their momentum and created momentum for us. There was a real confidence level on the bench and for the guys in those roles that we weren't going to get scored on. That's a good feeling and a feeling we had most of the year."
Can that trend continue in Game 3?
Much of that falls on the Devils' Brodeur, who is still trying to dig out from under some terrible PK numbers from Round 1. As it stands, he has an .804 save percentage short-handed — lower than every other starting goalie not named Marc-Andre Fleury.