By Matt Mastrogiovanni, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
Special teams are crucial in the 82-game grind of the National Hockey League season. A power-play goal or a penalty kill could make the smallest difference in whether a team wins or loses.
For the Flyers, the addition of James van Riemsdyk could give them a much-needed catalyst to propel the team's power play to a top spot in the league.
Philadelphia's power play was basically middle of the pack last season. At 20.7 percent, the team sat 15th in the league, decent on paper but a lot different on the ice.
At some points in the season, the Flyers power play fell flat for unsettling lengths. Now, with the acquisition of van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia's power play has its newest weapon.
With 20 power-play points last season, 11 of those being goals, JVR is one of the top net-front presences in the NHL. The loss of Brayden Schenn left a considerable void in that realm for the Flyers, leaving only Wayne Simmonds as the top man to pick up the garbage in front of the opposing goalie. Forwards Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick also played crucial roles near the goal mouth as well.
Fast forward to this upcoming season. Let's take a look at Philadelphia's possible power play units.
The first unit will still consist of mainstays like Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere. Presumably, if last season was any indication, Simmonds and Patrick are going to see some time on the top unit as well.
The second unit could have good balance up front with Couturier and van Riemsdyk. Travis Konecny also fits into the second power play unit as well. Defensively, Ivan Provorov is going to slot in there as well. Travis Sanheim or Andrew MacDonald may also get power play time, as the second unit typically features a second defenseman.
Those lineups are just the idea of things at the moment, but it looks like the Flyers will have two well-rounded units to find the back of the net on the power play.
A new season brings new opportunities. Adding JVR to the Flyers roster seems to be an all-around good fit, but will hold an even greater impact when the Flyers have the all important man-advantage.
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