Last week we took at look at how the Flyers’ did exiting the zone. This week we’ll check in on their zone entry numbers.
Sorted by Opp Fail %
Coburn, Streit, and Del Zotto continue to be the Flyers best defensemen at defending the blue line. We’ll ignore Colaiacovo in this instance since his time in the lineup was very limited. Overall, the Flyers’ defense struggles to handle opposing forwards through the neutral zone. Their problems may be a combination of trying to compensate for a lack of foot speed or just bad habits a player picked up throughout their career. The lack of aggressiveness and gap control in the neutral zone leaves a lot to be desired. It’s an area of the game where the Flyers are really going to miss Coburn, because he was excellent at it. When he was on his game, he was an absolute monster in the neutral zone.
Personally, I think Coburn’s greatest asset to the Flyers was his neutral zone play. Honestly it’s an area of the game I probably wouldn’t have noticed too much or even appreciated if I didn’t spend time tracking this data. It’s not just the ability to break-up entries that can provide success in the neutral zone. Attacking opposing puck carriers before they enter the zone and forcing them to either change direction or dump the puck in can help limit chances and shots against. The problem is that most of the current defense back off of the puck carrier way too early, giving them too much time and space to enter the zone with speed and control. Overall, Streit is fairly good at picking his spots to step up and challenge the puck carrier. Del Zotto is a bit more frustrating in this area. For all of his “risky” plays to help drive play and carry the puck out of the zone I’d love to see him be a little more aggressive and challenge opponents in the neutral zone. He has a much better chance at being able to recover from a failed attempt at preventing opposing players from entering the zone than the rest of the defense. At the very least, I’d like to see him work on his gap control. He has a tendency to back into the zone far too often and early. There are times where he looked Andrew MacDonald bad in that aspect. He was letting every one who approached his side of the ice enter with control and speed. He’s gotten better as the season progressed but I’d still like to see some more improvement from him.
When we wrap up the season the pairings above will end up being irrelevant, but whatever. Schultz probably won’t fare much better on a pairing with Streit. He might get a little bit of a break in terms of opponents attacking his side of the ice, but not much. It’s hard to find a way to optimize this defense moving forward. Their best bet might be to roll out a lineup of Streit-Schultz, MDZ-Schenn, and Colaiacovo-MacDonald. I definitely don’t expect that to happen at all since they’ve shown absolutely no interest in scratching Grossmann who has arguably been the Flyers worst defensemen. The only thing that really bums me out is that we won’t get a chance to see an extended look at a Coburn-Del Zotto pairing. I thought they complimented each other really well and had success in the short time they played together. Oh well, life goes on.
Sorted by Controlled Entry %
The one thing that really stuck out to me is the drop in Del Zotto and Streit’s controlled entry percentage. I had mentioned last week that I was worried about the comments by the coaching staff regarding defensemen and not wanting them to lead the rush up ice. I have no problem with a coach who wants his players to be smart and pick their spots. However, it seems to be happening more often that Streit and Del Zotto are forcing passes out of their zone. Keep in mind that controlled entries also include passes. In theory, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting your defense to make a nice, quick outlet pass to your forwards and let them do most of the work generating offense. The problem is, it puts more pressure on your forwards and your defense. The defense feels the need to force passes instead of opting to skate the puck out of the zone and transition into offense themselves. Given the current state of the defense I’m not expecting this to get any better. We’ll see if there was any impact in the transition data when we look at that next week.
Sorted by Controlled Entry %
I’m just going to make a couple of quick comments about the data above. Laughton continued to get better at carrying the puck into the zone as the season progressed. It’s a shame that there are just too many bodies in the forward corps to keep him around for the rest of the season. He was a fun player to watch and track. Matt Read saw the largest increase in controlled percentage since the midpoint of the season. Amazing how much better a player looks when he isn’t trying to skate around with a high-ankle sprain. Couturier continues to maintain his overall success at controlling play through the neutral zone. It’s been a treat watching him develop this year. I think he relied quite a bit on Matt Read last year to be the one to push play up ice and gain the zone with control. I know people have been a bit frustrated with his lack of finishing lately but maybe that’s just not the kind of player he is. Is there anything wrong with a kid who can control play throughout the ice. Maybe Couturier is more of a playmaker than people thought.
Now we’ll take a look at how the lines performed. Please keep in mind that these are most frequent line combination through 60 games. Although Raffl and Schenn have spent roughly the same amount of time playing alongside Voracek and Giroux, Raffl hasn’t spent a significant amount of time playing on another line. I did not include Ryan White or Petr Straka because they only played a handful of games.
I’m happy to see Voracek and Giroux split up. Especially since it means Voracek is playing on a line with Couturier and Read, be still my heart. We should see Raffl’s numbers start to increase in this last quarter of the season. Obviously Giroux will be the driving force on the newly formed top line, but Raffl will have more of an opportunity to carry the puck now that Voracek is out of the picture. I’m not as confident that Simmonds will finish the year any better. He has always been a guy to play the chip and chase game. I think that’s the kind of game we can expect him to revert back to over the home stretch. Worst case scenario, he sees his controlled entry percentage decrease but it won’t have a huge affect on their line’s production. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Schenn finishes the year with with roughly a 60% controlled entry percentage if he continues to play on a line with White and Umberger. There’s no doubt that he is going to have to be the puck carrier on that line in order for it to have success. Mostly, I’m looking forward to watching the line of Voracek, Couturier, and Read. Please feel free to keep them together for the rest of the year.
FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES
I thought it would fun to pull the data from the last 5 games where we started to get a look at new forward and defense combinations. Please, note this does not include their recent game against Calgary. I assume these are more or less the forward line combinations for the rest of the year. Who even knows what they’ll end up doing with the defense. I’m not actually going to spend time breaking it down. I’m mostly throwing it in here for a laugh. Who said data can’t be fun?
Next week we’ll take a look at the transition data.
Corsi data provided by war-on-ice.
The data in this article did not include Coburn’s final 3 games. Coburn ended the year with a break-up percentage of 15%, best among defensemen.