The Flyers Power Play and the Royal Road

Earlier this season, former New York Rangers goaltender Steve Valiquette introduced a fascinating idea to the hockey world in regards to shot quality. Seeking to determine where the highest quality shots come from and how they are created, Valiquette created some lines on the ice known as the Royal Road. Using the Royal Road for guidance, Valiquette began breaking shots down into the categories of green (high quality) and red (low quality). After watching every goal scored in every game through the season, he was able to suggest that over 70% of all goals scored will be scored on ‘green shots’.

A thorough video explanation is linked below. I’d highly recommend watching it to enhance your understanding of this article.

The main takeaway here is that more green shots will ultimately lead to more goals. A goaltender typically has less than a half of a second to fully react to a green shot, making it extremely difficult to save. There are several different types of green shots, each of which are listed below.

Image via MSG Network

Image via MSG Network

Based on these numbers, it seems like the best way to create high-percentage offense is to move the puck across the Royal Road. Whether the puck is passed or carried across, 30% of all goals evaluated by Valiquette crossed the Royal Road.

Keeping these ideas in mind, I wanted to take a look at the Flyers’ power play, which has arguably been their biggest strength over the past few seasons. I watched every power play goal scored by the Flyers this season, and classified each one based on whether it came from a green or a red shot. Furthermore, I looked at which types of green goals the Flyers have been scoring, and who is responsible for creating those high-percentage shot attempts. Let’s take a look.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.03.51 AMUnsurprisingly, the Flyers have scored a large majority (77.5%) of their power play goals this season via green shots. Almost 37% of those goals have come on passes across the Royal Road. Think those cross-ice passes might be important to the Flyers’ power play?

Next, I wanted to look at which players have been the most successful when it comes to creating green goals this season. The player who scored is credited with the green goal. The player who set the green goal up is credited with a set up based on what type of green attempt it was. So being credited for a deflection means that a player created the shot attempt which was then deflected. In some instances with green rebounds, two different set up credits are given. One goes to the player who took the green shot, and one goes to the player who created the green shot attempt via one of the other methods.

Let’s see how everyone stacks up.

Player Involved In Green Goals Set Ups Skate Across Pass Across Green Rebound Screen One-Timer Same Side Broken Play Deflection
Simmonds 17 10 7 0 2 0 5 0 0 0
Giroux 15 10 5 1 2 1 0 1 0 0
Voracek 13 8 5 0 0 3 0 2 0 0
B Schenn 9 3 6 0 5 1 0 0 0 0
Streit 6 2 4 0 2 0 0 1 0 1
Read 5 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1
Lecavalier 3 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0
Couturier 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Laughton 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
MacDonald 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Del Zotto 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0

Several takeaways here:

-While Wayne Simmonds is an elite power play skater, it was just a tad surprising to see him ahead of Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux on this list. Looking at green goals on the power play reveals yet another reason why he is one of the best in the game with a man advantage: his ability to screen the goalie. 5 of his 7 green goal set-ups this season came via screening the goaltender. While these screens don’t show up on the scoresheet, they are extremely valuable in that they can turn a red shot attempt into a green one. Take a look at the example below. Very little time for Tuukka Rask to react to that one.

-It’s nice to see that Brayden Schenn is leading the team in goals set up by passing across the Royal Road. This just goes further towards validating the idea that he is a valuable power play guy in Philadelphia. Below is a fine example of one of these set-ups. Not a lot of time for the goaltender to get across and react to the shot.

-Man, there is a huge, huge dropoff when it comes to the second unit. Obviously they see the ice less than the first unit does, but it would really be nice to see more high-percentage shots generated from Couturier, Read and that second group.

While this information would be much more valuable if we had data to compare it to around the league, it is certainly worth a look at. Especially on the power play, not all shot attempts are created equal. The Flyers have enjoyed a lot of success on the power play for the past couple seasons, and I’d hypothesize that creating these high quality shot attempts has had a lot to do with it. Tracking not only green goals but all green shot attempts would definitely provide some valuable information in seasons to come.

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