Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Last week I took a look at all of the 5v5 goals scored against the Flyers this past season. This week we’ll see if we can find any tendencies regarding how they were scoring goals. Like last week, we’ll put a lot of focus on the team overall and try and avoid putting too much emphasis on individual play. I’m not sure why, but I found this far less interesting to go back and look at but we’ll dig into the data either way.
Does not include goals scored after PP
I defined a breakout as a play where the opposition voluntarily loses possession of the puck in the offensive zone. For example, if the opposition dumps the puck in so they can make a line change or the Flyers recovered a rebound or missed shot attempt by the opposition would be categorized as breakouts. At first I was a bit surprised at the number of goals that were scored as a result of a breakout. I guess it makes sense since the Flyers spent a good amount of time in their own end defending and trying to clear the zone. That may also explain why their second most frequent method of starting the transition was forcing defensive zone turnovers. What really caught my eye was number of goals that were scored off the rush vs the cycle. When I was watching these goals, it seemed as if the Flyers were scoring a ton of goals off the rush; I guess the data had a different view of things.
In last week’s post I mentioned how it appeared that the Flyers changed their forecheck scheme a few months into the season. This is something that had an impact on their breakouts as well. During the first few months their breakouts were a lot tighter. Basically, there were smaller gaps between the forwards and defense and, in my opinion, better overall support as a unit. For me, this was a far more effective breakout system for this team considering the talent on the back end. Once the forecheck changed, their breakout changed as well.
Their second breakout system featured larger gaps between the defense and forwards. The forwards would hang around in the neutral zone and try to give their defensemen a viable option to start the counterattack. If no option was present, the forward closest to the blue line would skate into the zone (rarely past the top of the faceoff circle) and back into his position in the neutral zone. There was also added pressure on the defense to make crisp, clean outlet passes to the forwards in the neutral zone. It always struck me as an odd strategy to utilize because there really weren’t many defensemen on the team who could be counted on to make those plays, and decisions, consistently enough.
As I mentioned earlier, I was fairly surprised that the majority of Flyers goals were a result of extended zone time. What was even more interesting is watching their cycle game. The forwards seemed to put a lot of focus on pushing play out to the boards. They’ll carry the puck in along the boards, even if they have the option to cut to the center and possibly create a more dangerous drive into the zone. The forwards will line the boards as they work the puck around to the back of the net and up to the defenders at the point. Once the player got the puck back to the point they would often cut to shooting lane to try and create some additional traffic in front. It seemed like their main focus was to consistently get the puck to the point, let the defenders take a shot, and try to get some traffic in front. If that didn’t work, they’d collect the puck and start the same routine over again. Obviously, these aren’t abnormal events that happen during the game but at times it felt as if they were cycling for the sake of cycling.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of system Hakstol utilizes this upcoming season. Some changes are likely going to have to be made for this team to find more success at even-strength play. Obviously there are a lot of things that have to go right for your team to get consist 5v5 contribution. Considering the current transition the team is going through it will be best to put a lot of focus on the process, not just results. Better players are the easy solution, but I don’t see a lot of changes to the current roster coming this offseason. However, some changes to their system may help improve some of their even-strength struggles.