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Flyers Penalty Kill Looms Large Against Nashville

The Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night was one of the team’s most complete games of the season.

With all four forward lines operating like a well-oiled machine, the team managed to shell shock a Nashville team that was in the midst of a five-game winning streak.

The standout moments came in the form of Wayne Simmonds’ two-goal night, the energy of his line with Brayden Schenn and Zac Rinaldo, and the near flawless play of Ilya Bryzgalov.

However, it can’t be understated how important the team’s penalty kill was in the game’s outcome.

“The penalty killers did a good job all game,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We talked about it beforehand. Nashville had two very slick power play units.”

Nashville has one of the best power play units in the entire league.

Coming into Thursday night, the Predators were ranked second in the NHL with a 22.4% success rate. The Flyers managed to hold them scoreless on all four of their power play opportunities.

The key to the Flyers success was keeping the Predators on the perimeter. It was apparent that Nashville was unable to move the puck to the interior zone and that limited their quality scoring chances.

The forwards were disciplined when attacking and at some points were able to trap Nashville attackers into man-made corners, where two Flyers attackers cut down on passing lines by boxing in the attacker.

The defenders also played a huge role in the structure by clearing the net and picking up coverage.

It all resulted in a frustrating night for the league's second most successful group.

“We have a great penalty kill,” Read said after the game. “The four guys that are mainly out there work so well and communicate.  The “D” that are out there are so smart. It’s good for us to have a great penalty kill game tonight. ”

However, the success of the unit wasn’t limited only to Thursday.

Since the start of the New Year, the Flyers have killed off 83.3% off all penalties taken. They have yet to allow more than one power play goal in any game in 2012.

At the beginning of the season, the Flyers had serious penalty troubles.

In their first six games alone, they afforded their opponents five or more power plays in each game. By game 31 of the season, the Flyers had allowed five or more power plays on 16 separate occasions.

Since January 2, the team has surrendered more than three power plays in only four of their 14 games.

It’s important that the team limit the amount of times they have to kill off a penalty.

Forcing the penalty kill to play extended minutes throws off the rhythm of the bench and changes the way the team rotates their lines.

Through the first 14 games of the New Year, the team has limited their penalties and has successfully killed them off when they do take them.

It’s crucial for continued success.

“Special team is a huge part of the game,” Read said. “If you are going to win games you’ve got to be able to penalty kill.”

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