Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Last week we took a look how the Flyers did exiting the zone for the 2014-2015 season. It’s about that time to see how successful they were in the neutral zone. First, we’ll breakdown their numbers from this season and then we’ll compare numbers from prior seasons. Since there have been a number of injuries, roster moves, and different line combinations I won’t be breaking the data down by defense pairings and line combinations.
Data sorted by Opp Fail %
I’ve talked before about the Flyers problems in the neutral zone and they still remain an issue for the team. The current defense unit is not particularly good at actually forcing the opposition to the outside. Now I will give some credit to the forwards here, at times they do a half decent job of shifting and clogging the neutral zone in transition so opponents have no choice but to stay along the perimeter. There have also been numerous times where the opponent just decides to stay in their lane regardless of the fact that they can cut to the middle of the ice and create a better opportunity. With all that being said, more often than not the defense lets opponents dictate play and allow them to do as they wish entering the zone.
There weren’t a whole lot of changes since the midpoint of the season. Most of the player have maintained the same success and failures as before. Schutlz’s numbers are fairly concerning when you consider the team has two more years committed to him. I had my concerns that the Flyers front office believed that Schultz would be able to replace what Coburn brought to the table, making the decision to trade him easier. I will say that over the last couple months of the season I did notice Schultz was making an effort to be more aggressive in the neutral zone. He has tried stepping up and challenging puck carriers as they approach the blue line more often than he did before. The problem is that he isn’t very good at this and ends up making things worse. He’ll either miss a check attempt or get himself out of position in such a bad way that it leaves his defense partner to deal with the mess. If he is going to have success in this area of the game his decision making is going to have to improve. He’s 32 years old and he’s been in the league for quite awhile. I’m not overly optimistic that he’ll be able to fix that issue. In my opinion, Colaiacovo was the better option to replacing a lot of what Coburn excelled at.
Since becoming a regular in the lineup near the end of the season Colaiacovo has done an excellent job in the neutral zone. He’s fairly aggressive at the blue line and good at picking his spots. Like Coburn, he’s also good at challenging forwards in the neutral zone and forcing them to his partner’s side of the ice. His success in the neutral zone more than likely has had a positive impact on his shot suppression. I know people may look at his 5v5 minutes and point out that he hasn’t played nearly as much as the rest of the defense corps so maybe his numbers are skewed a bit. It’s a valid point but Colaiacovo has had success in shot suppression throughout his career so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Again, not a lot of changes from last quarter. Del Zotto saw a drop in his controlled entry numbers. Part of that may be a result of getting stuck in the defensive zone more often. The Schultz-Del Zotto pairing left a lot to be desired. They were a bit of a mess in their own end so I hope they aren’t a pairing next year. He may have also been playing a slightly more conservative style trying to keep his coach happy. There’s not a whole lot to say here about the defense since most of the results above are pretty much what we expected.
Just a quick note that we only had about 19 games worth of data for Andrew MacDonald last year so any drastic changes in his numbers were to be expected. Streit had struggled a bit down the stretch at breaking up opponent’s entry attempts but he has still seen improvements from the prior year. Hopefully he will be able to continue his success next year. Assuming the Flyers enter the season with roughly the same defensive unit, they are going to need him to do well.
It’s Jake Voracek’s world, we just live in it. I just want to take a second to say how much fun it has been to track entries for Voracek this year. Watching him fly through the neutral zone, protect the puck, and then proceed to carry it through a couple defenders has been a thrill to watch. He’s always thrived in this area of the game but he’s managed to take it to another level this year. There was one game where Voracek was credited with 19 entries; 16 of those entries were controlled. Now that was the game that Giroux had missed because of injury but it is still a very impressive feat.
Since Matt Read had recovered from his ankle injury, he has seen a steady increase in his controlled entry percentage during each quarter. I’d expect him to bounce back to his old +50 controlled entry percentage. Watching him over the last couple of months he was back to controlling play through the neutral zone and entering the zone with speed which is something he excelled at last year.
A few weeks ago I discussed Sean Couturier’s offensive development. Here you can get a good look at how his numbers have improved throughout the years. It’s nice to see his entry numbers from this year reflect the positive steps he’s taken in his development. I’m really looking forward to see him either maintain this success or hopefully improve upon it.
Michael Raffl is an interesting case here. He has clearly taken a step back this year but I don’t think it’s something we should be overly concerned with. He was good at gaining the zone with possession last year and I can’t help but think he may have been affected by the broken foot or even just playing on a line with Giroux and Voracek. I did notice when he was not on that top line he carried the puck much more frequently. He took over and became the main puck carrier on a line with less talented players. Even if he isn’t carrying the puck that often on a line with Giroux and Voracek, he does a very good job of supporting them and making plays that aid in that line’s success.
Next week we’ll take a look at transition data.
*Corsi data from war-on-ice*
*2012 and 2013 entry data from Broad Street Hockey*