It’s about that time again to check in on the Flyers and take a look at their zone exit numbers.
In terms of the numbers, not a whole lot of changes here. Overall, the defense is having nearly the same amount of success exiting the zone as they did through the midpoint of the season. Although, Coburn and Streit did see a bit of a drop in their success when exiting with possession. I expected Coburn’s numbers to decline as the season went on so it’s not surprising to see him take a step back here. It’s simply the result of being relied upon to carry the puck too much. He’s an average puck handler but if you have to rely on him as the main puck carrier on a pair, there will be some trouble down the line. Streit’s drop may have a bit to do with the style Berube wants the Flyers to play. I’ll talk about that in a bit.
I broke up numbers by pairing when I took a look at zone entries last time so I thought it would be interesting to utilize that for zone exits as well. Even with all of the injuries and healthy scratch nonsense, most of the defensive pairings have been pretty consistent throughout the year. Andrew MacDonald was annoying to deal with (shocking I know) since his most frequent partner has been Schenn but Schenn’s most frequent partner has been Del Zotto. I just threw him in with Colaiacavo since I didn’t have the time to do pull and compile the data game by game based on pairings.
There were a couple things I thought were interesting when I looked at the data this way. The disparity between exit attempts and exits with possession on the 2nd pair was completely expected. However, looking at the Schultz-Coburn pairing I expected to see a larger gap between the two players. If we were to estimate what Coburn’s totals would be if he had played the same amount of games as Schultz, it wouldn’t have a huge affect on the numbers. Their total exit attempts would be relatively close and the percentages would stay the same. It definitely seemed like there would be a bigger disparity in overall attempts between them. Assuming Coburn and/or Del Zotto aren’t traded by the deadline, I’d really like that pair to stay together for the rest of the season if possible. Now if Kimmo were to come back and stay with the team that would be a different story. I’m not convinced that will actually happen so please just keep Del Zotto and Coburn together. I thought Coburn had some of his better games this past weekend. He was way more aggressive in the defensive zone than I can remember. That’s when he’s at his best and I think he and Del Zotto compliment each other well.
The Del Zotto-Schenn pairing was the most interesting to me. Both Schenn and Del Zotto are exiting the zone with possession more than 50% of the time. I’ve mentioned this before, but Schenn is an underrated passer. It’s a skill that Schultz and Grossmann are lacking. He has the ability to make a clean outlet pass even he’s under pressure from the opposition. He does it consistently as well. Personally, I don’t think he gets enough credit for this aspect of his game.
These plays happen fairly often throughout the game. Are there times where he turns it over and makes a terrible pass? Yes, but more often than not Schenn is very good at completing these passes to help drive play up ice. We’ll take another look at this when we analyze the transitional data in a couple weeks.
Most of the changes in the charts above are fairly minimal so I’m going to take a minute to talk about something that has been bothering me with the Flyers’ breakouts recently. At first I didn’t think much of it but it looks like it’s started to become a pattern. The gap between the forwards and defense when breaking out of the zone is becoming larger. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is from the game against Nashville this past weekend. Del Zotto has the puck in his zone, starts to try and skate the puck out of the zone, and then decides to circle back into their zone so the forwards can make a line change. After the forwards make the change, Del Zotto and Coburn spend roughly 12 seconds passing the puck back and forth looking for an outlet and help from the forwards.
Giroux is the only forward to come back and give the defensemen an option at exiting the zone. Unfortunately he does this when Coburn is under pressure with the puck and passing to Giroux isn’t exactly a viable option. Simmonds and Raffl never leave their respective lanes and even worse that Simmonds never leaves his spot along the boards. Simmonds doesn’t make any type of movement whatsoever to help out his defensemen. He was out on the ice the entire time Coburn and Del Zotto were trying to move the puck out of the zone and didn’t move. At first, I assume he stayed put because they were making a change and he didn’t want to risk a too many men on the ice penalty. I don’t have a problem with that. I am bothered by the fact that after the change occurs he still makes no movement whatsoever. Even when Del Zotto makes the pass to Simmonds he remains stationary waiting for the puck to come to him.
There were a few times where Del Zotto could have skated the puck out of the zone to avoid this. I worry that Berube’s comments about not wanting the defense to lead the rush is having some affect here. I will admit there are some times where Del Zotto can get overly excited and try to lead the rush as often as possible. For me, a defenseman leading the rush shouldn’t be a problem since the forwards should have enough awareness to cover for them. This isn’t something that affects just Del Zotto, it’s having an impact on Streit as well. He hasn’t been the carrying the puck out of the zone nearly as much as he used to. It’s not as if Streit was as aggressive as Del Zotto trying to lead the rush, but he just hasn’t looked the same. I have to imagine that the comments by the coaching staff are causing the to focus on making outlet passes to the forwards instead of carrying it out of the zone. That may very well account for the increase in pressure Streit has seen since the midpoint of the season. This is just my opinion, but it seems like the defense has been trying to force passes out of the zone even if they have the option to carry it out. With the defensive unit they have, it seems odd to me that they would limit their options exiting the zone. It’s something I’ll keep my eye on as I track their remaining games.
I didn’t include Ryan White or Petr Straka in the line combination charts since this is cumulative data. Straka probably won’t be back with the club this season and White hasn’t been around long enough to have a meaningful impact. Once the season comes to an end we’ll get him in there. Jake Voracek continues to rock our world. I can’t express how excited I am to finally see him playing on a line with Couturier and Read. Each player is more than capable of successfully exiting the zone and doing it with possession as well. Now that Raffl is no longer playing on a line with Giroux and Voracek we can expect his numbers to increase as the season comes to an end. This year Raffl’s low exit, and entry, percentages can be attributed to spending nearly all of his time with two guys who always have the puck. Raffl can handle the task of being relied upon to keep possession of the puck.
Next week we’ll take a look at zone entry numbers.