At the beginning of this season you’d have been hard pressed to find a fan so delusional that they would’ve said, “this 2016-17 Flyers team is good enough to win the Stanley Cup!” Heck, even those willing to say, “this 2016-17 Flyers team will make the playoffs for sure!” were slightly off their rockers. We all knew this season would be that (somewhat) familiar scenario of the Flyers maybe sneaking into a Wildcard playoff spot.
With that thought in mind, here we are on February 8th, 2017 (a mere 3 weeks away from the March 1st trade deadline) and the Flyers are 8th after 54 games! If we’re using the Wildcard spots as a measuring stick, has this season actually been a relative success so far? I guess so. Weird.
Flyers 8th in Eastern Conference Standings via TSN.ca
Being 8th wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few teams throwing up lottery years.. but in the East there just aren’t any truly bad teams this year. The fight for the final Wildcard spot is going to be intense. The Flyers, in 8th, are only 5 points ahead of 16th place Tampa Bay!
With the team in a relatively downward trend recently, selling at the deadline is certainly worth exploring if the team keeps slipping. Buying at the deadline at least, would seem foolish in this position. If the team were to play at this exact same rate they would end the season with 89 points.. likely not enough to make the playoffs. 2 or 3 teams below Philadelphia are bound to get hot.
So what has been the problem with this year’s team? I think everyone on this team deserves some blame. Hextall’s management, Hakstol deployment, and the players are all guilty of certain sins. Today I’m going to look at the wild inconsistency that’s been on display this year through some advanced team stats.
First things first, this team has definitely manufactured enough opportunities to be competitive. They have the 8th most shot attempts per 60 minutes of play in the NHL, and have allowed the 12th most. That comes out as a positive in Corsi For % (shots, blocked shots, and missed shots). On the surface it would seem this is a good offensive team that plays very fast and loose. Exciting, but probably not great defensively.
Flyers 3 Game Rolling Corsi For % (Even Strength)
Above is the team’s 3 Game Rolling Corsi For percentage. This is good! I’ve lumped 3 games together at each of the points on this and the following line graphs. This gives us a better look at how the team is playing over periods of time. More often than not the Flyers are on the positive side of the 50% line. Judging by this alone I would assume the Flyers were a good 5v5 team that usually outscores opponents at even strength.
That however is not the case.
Flyers 3 Game Rolling Goals For % (Even Strength)
This is bad! Going hand-in-hand with that 3 Game Rolling Corsi is this Goals For percentage figure. This illustrates how desperately bad the Flyers are at scoring in Even Strength situations. They’re good at manufacturing a respectable amount of shots, but somehow can’t convert that into goals. Directly related is the team’s poor Evenn Strength shooting percentage (below).
Flyers 3 Game Rolling Shooting % (Even Strength)
The Flyers just haven’t been able to score at a League Average rate at 5v5. They’re shooting just 6.6% all season while the rest of the league is at 7.8%. Especially since the turn of the New Year (around the 12th point in the above figure) they’ve really struggled at Even Strength (5.7%). The Giroux-era Flyers have always been Powerplay dependent, but this is a bit ridiculous.
Speaking of that Powerplay.. it hasn’t been outstanding.
Flyers 3 Game Rolling Powerplay Goals per 60 mins
The usual fall-back of Claude Giroux and company has been the Powerplay. Running at 21%, the Flyers PP is ranked 11th in the NHL. That’s good, but not nerly good enough to keep an otherwise struggling team afloat. There were spikes early in the season, again during the 10 game win streak, and recently in January, but there have been more below average than above average stretches. Extremely bad news for a team that’s not winning at Even Strength.
Goaltending hadn’t been an issue for the last 3 seasons in Philly. That’s something this team has almost never been able to say. Mason had provided league average goaltending to a team that desperately needed it after the Boucher, Bobrovsky, Bryzgalov, Leighton mess it had been previously. It has however turned into an especially hot-button issue this season in Philly.
Flyers 3 Game Rolling Save % (Even Strength)
The first 5 points on the graph (15 games) were absolutely horrendous. You can see there were 2 stretches where Mason and Neuvirth were both filled in to the tune of ~.850 sv%. That is just disgusting. Again, we can clearly see the month of December and the 10 game win streak (points 8, 9 and 10). For that month the Flyers were simply a complete team. Then after January 1st there was another save percentage crash. Lately we’ve started to see a rebound again, but the team has been awful offensively.
Looking at all these graphs it should be no surprise that the team started to heat up (and subsequently had a 10 game win streak) from about the 6th to the 10th points on the line graphs (mid-November until Christmas). At 5v5 they out-shot opponents while shooting at around League Average rates which resulted in them out-scoring opponents. They had an average powerplay, and the goaltending was slightly above average. They were playing very well! Other than that ~15 game stretch though, this has been a terrible team.
So which Flyers team will we get for the final 28 games of 2017? The 14-5-2 mid-November until Christmas Flyers? Or the 12-16-5 rest of the season Flyers?
After being shutout in back-to-back games they’re certainly trending in the wrong direction.