If there’s one area of the Philadelphia Flyers’ game that needs immediate help, it’s penalty killing.
The Philadelphia Flyers were 26th in the NHL in killing penalties last season. They killed off 74.68 percent of opponent power plays. League leader Boston killed 87.28 percent.
That’s a problem for a team on the mend, for a team that wants to be competitive and battle up and down the ice. Especially for a team that has had trouble scoring goals. The Flyers were 32nd in goal scoring last season. It’s an uphill climb when you struggle to score, then give one up shorthanded.
Into that breach steps Ryan Poehling, a 24-year-old free agent from the Penguins. The Flyers signed Poehling (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) to a one-year, $1.4 million contract on July 1. He was a first-round draft pick of the Canadiens in 2017, the 25th overall player selected.
Poehling, from Lakeville, Minn., played parts of three seasons with the Canadiens before his one-year stint in Pittsburgh. He scored seven goals and seven assists with the Penguins … and earned the reputation as an excellent penalty killer. The Penguins were 16th in the NHL in penalty killing last season.
“There’s so many guys. It’s hard to get to the NHL and it’s also hard to stay in the NHL,” said Poehling, who scored a goal in one of Sunday’s scrimmages at Training Camp. “So for me just learning what’s worked and what’s not [has helped his career].
“Last year I had a great year in Pittsburgh. I think just being a guy you can rely on defensively but also produce a little bit offensively is a big thing.
“And then obviously PK [penalty killing] … was huge for me last year. It keeps you in the lineup. It’s a big role in the NHL. It’s so hard to score five-on-five that having special teams is great, offensively for power play and defensively on the PK. Just doing those kind of things helps me create a role for myself.”
Flyers coach John Tortorella and general manager Daniel Briere have mentioned Poehling’s prowess killing penalties. That might become his niche in Philadelphia and, if successful, would help the team and his career greatly.
“I think we’re played well together so far,” Poehling said the other day in camp.
“We’re still learning a few things out about one another. Definitely with them, we bring a heavy game, playing behind the team.
“I think that’s important for a group to grind other teams down especially throughout a year and give the skills guys time to make plays.”
Poehling’s contract cries out “Show me” to the Flyers, a one-year, prove-it deal.
“It’s a new opportunity for me. Just show ’em what you got,” said Poehling, who played three seasons at St. Cloud State in Minnesota and competed against boyhood friend Noah Cates at University of Minnesota-Duluth.
“At the end of the day, hockey is not everything for me. So I think that knowing that for myself, it’s easy to go out and play the game that you love.
“At the end of the day, it’s a game I still do enjoy playing. Knowing that and just going out and competing in a game I enjoy and whatever ends up happening from that ends up happening.”
Poehling is going through his first Tortorella training camp.
“This one’s definitely harder but it’s been good,” Poehling said. “It gets you ready for it.
“We’re focusing on little things. And just competing hard. That’s kinda what hockey’s about, is when you get out there there’s a lot of Xs and Os, but at the end of the day you just got to compete.
“So I think it’s good for us to learn these things before the actual games start coming.”