By Tom Dougherty, CSNPhilly.com
Flyers head coach Craig Berube made it seem simple — too simple.
“Ryan’s (White) a right-hand shot. That’s it,” Berube said after Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Sharks. “Nothing else. Need a right-hander there for (Claude) Giroux.”
With Wayne Simmonds out for the rest of the season with a fractured left leg, Berube decided Friday he would replace Simmonds with Ryan White on the team’s first power-play unit.
On Saturday, White, who averaged three seconds of power-play time last season with Montreal, did an adequate job replacing the orange and black’s leading goal scorer.
The 27-year-old didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he stepped into a role Simmonds excelled at this season and wasn’t lost.
“He did a good job, a real good job,” Berube said. “Should have had a goal, but his play, he got to all of the loose pucks and made plays and getting the puck back, which is real important.
“That’s what Wayne Simmonds is real good at. Both he and Brayden Schenn are really good at that, and White did an excellent job at that. Screened a goalie, they scored. Could have had a goal, should have had a goal. He’s kicking himself for sure, not putting that one in. But he’s been a good player.”
Simmonds will finish the season with 28 goals, 14 of which have come on the man advantage. The 6-foot-2 winger has a knack for stationing himself in front of the goalie and down low, where he’ll do one of three things: Take a tight shot, pass it back to Giroux or send it over to Jakub Voracek. Simmonds has mastered this role, which has made him so successful.
In his first game replacing Simmonds, White did a lot of the same things Simmonds does on the man advantage. White found himself in front of the net and down low. He had a couple of screens on Sharks goalie Alex Stalock, one of which led to Giroux’s 23rd goal and 13th power-play goal of the season. On the first power play, he had a couple near goals on deflections.
“Just got to find a way to get them in there,” White said of his missed opportunities. “Tough missing those. Good plays by the guys out there. Just happy to see G put one in there, made me feel a little better about missing a couple of them.”
White’s biggest whiff of the day came on the Flyers’ third power play in the third period. The 6-foot center found himself staring at nothing but the net and the puck on his stick. He tried to deposit it home, but his shot fluttered wide — he didn’t get credited with a shot on goal.
“The guys did a good job of talking me through it, especially after I missed the one there,” he said. “G came up to me right away and told me to get out there, we’ll get it back and we did.
“Just gotta stay with it and keep trying to get better. Just focus a little bit in on the chances I do get and put them away.”
At game’s end, White finished with more power-play time than Giroux (3:43) and Voracek (3:48) and had the same amount as Brayden Schenn with three minutes and 53 seconds.
Only Michael Del Zotto (4:42) had more PP time for the Flyers.
What allowed White to have a successful debut on the power play was his ability to stay calm and not try to overdo anything.
“When you get in a new situation, sometimes you try to overthink it,” said Giroux, who leads the NHL with 35 power-play points. “I think he did a good job.”
The Flyers’ power play struck once against San Jose in three opportunities. The first unit looked more polished than the second, as it has all season. In the second period, the second unit allowed a shorthanded breakaway to Logan Couture that Steve Mason stopped thanks to defenseman Brandon Manning trusting his goalie.
After the game, Berube was asked why he chose White over Michael Raffl, who scored his 20th goal Saturday, for the power play. He said it came down to his shot.
If Raffl is a righty, he’s on the first PP unit. Some may question that decision. Raffl has grown a lot in his second season, but Berube wants a right-handed shot on the power play.
White was that guy Saturday. The only other option Berube has if he’s sticking with the right-handed shot requirement is Matt Read, but he’s not the type of player to play in front of the net.
Come Wednesday in Pittsburgh, White will be back with Giroux and Voracek on the team’s first power-play line. A couple more practices, and White might find his first career PP goal.
So far this season, he’s already set a career high with five goals — he scored just five goals in 141 games in five years with the Canadiens.
“He’s been good, he had a couple good looks,” said Voracek, who picked up two assists and now trails Sidney Crosby by two points for the NHL league lead.
“Him and Simmer around the net, they are very good players. He did a great screen on G’s goal. He’s a very smart player. He keeps it simple, and he does the things right on the ice. That’s exactly what we need, especially in front of the net — same thing with Simmer. (White’s) been great.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: See the story on CSNPhilly.com)