Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
On Tuesday, Scott Cullen of TSN posted a piece rating defenders by their ability to prevent high danger scoring chances.
That chart is ugly. Five Flyers defenders make the list of defensemen who allow the highest percentage of high-danger chances against, with only Nick Schultz and Radko Gudas avoiding this list. This isn’t exactly a bad thing though. For one, the reason why Score-Adjusted Corsi is a better predictor of future results than Scoring Chances is that it is far easier to out-pace quality chances with quantity of chances. So, while a Michael Del Zotto-Luke Schenn pairing may be a tire fire in the defensive zone, it’s likely that their talent offensive talent, and yes, Luke Schenn is a solid puck moving defender, will make up a few extra goals against over the course of a season.
Over at Broad St Hockey, Charlie O’Connor posted a wonderful look at Brandon Manning and some microstats that will help shed more light on the possession argument.
What we know, pretty much reflects the instinct our eyes give us as we watch the games: the Flyers defenders don’t suppress shots against, especially in high danger areas. In fact, I would venture a guess that Dave Hakstol is aware of this as Nick Schultz sees the fewest offensive zone starts relative to defensive zone starts as shown below from Behind the Net.
Via Behind the Net
Given the 5 names on the list, it’s not surprising that Nick Schultz gets asked to log the tougher zone starts. The Zone-Start gap also, partially explains why Schultz’s Relative Corsi is so much lower than the rest of the defenders. Given his tough minutes, he’s asked a lot so he’s probably not as bad as his Corsi Rel looks.
Another thing lost in this is the fact that Yevgeni Medvedev is injured.
The 82-22 pair was, in an extremely small sample, the second best possession driving pair in the NHL. This is a decent trade-off for the quality chances given up the other way. Another note is that Luke Schenn’s on-ice Save% is .909 which is fairly low. That SV% will regress upwards, which in turn will make Schenn appear better despite the fact he’s already a quality defender.
Via War on Ice
Earlier, I mentioned Score-Adjusted Corsi as being a better indicator of future results, this is where the concern steps it: only Luke Schenn is above 50%. The rest of the defense is dragging possession. Right now, the play of Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth has nearly hidden this, while the powerplay struggles have made it more obvious.
Via Behind the Net
The bigger point of concern is the On-Ice Shooting percentages. Several key players (Raffl-Giroux-Voracek) are all registering below 5 On-Ice Shooting Percentages. This lack of goals is making it easier to spot the weak points on defense.
So, the too long/didn’t read version of this is simple. The Flyers defense does give up a lot of high quality chances, but that’s not the biggest problem they have. The most pressing issue is the score adjusted possession where only Luke Schenn is a positive. All of these issues however, are being thrust front and center because of the lack of scoring at even strength, which luckily is due for regression as the season goes on. Finally, we all owe Michal Neuvirth a beer for pitching a tied for league leading three shutouts as of November 10 despite seeing a ton of high danger shot attempts against.