We’ve reached the midpoint of the Flyers’ season so it’s time to check in on their progress.
Mark Streit continues to lead the way among defensemen in successful exits and exiting with possession. No other defenseman has come close to matching Streit’s exit attempts. A lot of that can obviously be attributed to being paired with Nick Grossmann. It has been painful tracking exits over these past few months when Streit and Grossmann have been on the ice together. There were countless times where Streit would find himself in trouble, look for help from his partner, realize that partner was Grossmann, and decide to try and skate it out of trouble himself. Let’s be honest here, can you really blame him? You’re going to have problems down the line when a defenseman can’t trust his partner to help get him out of trouble. Since Grossmann is out with injury, Streit should get some help from Andrew MacDonald to help alleviate the pressure and responsibility of exiting the zone. However, there will still be some concern moving forward since MacDonald’s numbers haven’t actually improved as the season has gone on.
If we take a look at Andrew MacDonald’s numbers from the first quarter of the season there isn’t a lot to be optimistic about. Looking at the charts above we can see that his numbers are actually getting worse as the season moves forward. Now that the Flyers have lost Coburn for a month MacDonald is the most likely candidate to step in and take a lot of those minutes. It’s hard not to be worried when the guy is having trouble being more successful than Grossmann at simply exiting the zone. The biggest concern about MacDonald, for me at least, is the large drop-off in successful exits with possession. Again, this is a guy the Flyers brought in to help get a little mobility and puck movement that the defense was lacking last year. He’s just not delivering, at all really (is there an echo in here).
There’s not a whole lot that needs to be said about the rest of the defense corps. Grossmann is holding steady at his inability to exit the zone. Luke Schenn took a bit of a step back as the season went on, but that was to be expected. He finished near the middle of the pack last season and it’s where he is most likely to finish when the season wraps up. Del Zotto had a decent bump in overall success and has only seen a marginal decline exiting the zone with possession. Schultz and Coburn aren’t great puck movers so the decline in successful exit with possession was expected.
Most of the changes here are fairly minimal for all of the defensemen except Coburn. Being paired with Schultz means that Coburn has to take on the role of puck mover, which leads to facing more pressure from opponents. When you factor in the fact that last time we only had five games worth of data for him, drastic changes in his numbers aren’t surprising. Ultimately, he is really going to be missed on the blue line over the next month.
Most of the forward corps is maintaining their success, or seeing relatively minimal set-backs. Last time we only had four games worth of data for Scott Laughton so his numbers were bound to improve. It was hard not to come to that conclusion watching him get better with each game. He did take a bit of a step back in successful exit percentage. A lot of his failed exit attempts were turnovers from trying to carry the puck out of the zone. He’s constantly looking to carry puck, maintain possession through the neutral zone, and turn it into a controlled entry (get excited to see his zone entry numbers). Laughton has been a lot of fun to watch, and track. Hopefully he doesn’t miss too much time after that Niskanen hit.
Scott touched on this a couple of weeks ago, but it would really benefit the Flyers to start utilizing Voracek in the defensive zone a bit more. Here is a player who has the ability seamlessly transition from the defensive zone to the offensive zone and yet he is still has the highest percentage of offensive zone starts out of all forwards. He and Giroux continue to be the best forwards at maintaining possession when under pressure by the opposition. At least we have one thing we can enjoy during this awful season.
Next week we’ll take a look at zone entries.
*I threw together these graphs focusing on overall exit attempts for people who might want a better visual*