I Wish You Would Step Back from that Ledge, My Friend

After anticipating this season for nine agonizing, lockout-filled months, the last four days have many Flyers fans rethinking their priorities.

Maybe we were better off locked out.

Well, even though my opinion on this team is clear, I don’t think three games is worth any panic.

Let’s take this game by game:

After a rough first period, the Flyers outplayed Pittsburgh, outshooting the Pens, 21-16 and holding them scoreless over the final two periods. If Claude Giroux’s or Wayne Simmonds’ late efforts deflect off the post and into the net, we could be having a completely different conversation right now.

The Flyers followed a passionate home opener with a quick turnaround in Buffalo, and it showed. Compounding matters, two shaky disallowed goals make it a completely different game (for argument’s sake, we’re going to ignore the empty netter). In the end, the Flyers were outplayed, but with a call or two this is a much different game.

Last night was a strange game. The Flyers dominated early and spent a good portion of the first half of the game on the power play. However, the Devils capitalized on their opportunities, scoring on three of their first five shots (over the first two periods).

That’s pretty much when the panic came. 

There are issues right now. The defense’s inability to move the puck out of the defensive zone was evident against Buffalo. Sean Couturier needs to pick up Travis Zajac on New Jersey’s first goal last night. Special teams have put the Flyers in enormous holes.

That said, remember – sample size.

While the defense will remain a focus point throughout the season (a topic I’m sure I’ll be writing a ton of words about), we should be pretty sure Couturier – whose been on the ice for seven of the 10 goals against – is at least an adequate defensive player, even if he’s not the shutdown center he was last year, and this team has had horrible special teams puck luck.

On the power play, the Flyers are currently 1-for-22 – not exactly ideal.

Let’s crunch the numbers, though.

Flyers Power Play 2011-12 2013
Power Play Percentage 19.7% 6.7%
Power Play Shots/60 min 51 31.1
Power Play Shooting Percentage 13.3 % 4.5 %

*Numbers acquired from NHL.com and Behindthenet.ca

So far, the shooting percentage is down drastically with the man advantage. While the shots are down, the shooting percentage (which was sixth in hockey last season) would translate to three power play goals in the given opportunities. This still isn’t very good (13.4 percent), but it’s not going to put anyone on alert, either, like the current results have.

Also, competition has to be considered. The Devils and Penguins were two of the league’s three best penalty killers last season, successfully turning away 89.6 and 87.8 percent of attempts, respectively. With 6 shots and a goal in 4 power play opportunities against an average penalty kill (Buffalo), it becomes easy to chalk up struggles to bad luck and a rough schedule.

Flyers Penalty Kill 2011-12 2013
Penalty Kill Percentage 81.8% 62.5%
Penalty Kill Shots Against/60 min 40.2 48.6
Penalty Kill Shooting Percentage Against 15.3% 22.7%

*Numbers acquired from NHL.com and Behindthenet.ca

The penalty kill has been just as much a struggle, but the shooting percentage seems to be the reason for this. That 15.3 percent was 29th in the NHL. In reality, Ilya Bryzgalov is a good goalie and we should probably expect that number to improve this season. But after a couple games it’s absurdly high and a part of the problem.

Regression will take place. The personnel is similar and should produce similar results to last season.

Conclusion

Speaking of regression (or maybe we should say progression in this case), guys not named Claude Giroux have scored on one of 74 shots (1.4 percent). That will change.

On the season, the Flyers’ goal differential is minus-eight. That said, it’s only minus-two at even strength when you ignore empty netters. Throw in a minus-14 shot differential (not staggering and basically a wash when you consider a minus-12 in Buffalo) and you can see the Flyers have played pretty mediocre hockey.

I know that’s not exciting, but it’s also better than the team’s record. Luck evens out. Sometimes that results in a “cold streak” and other times it puts a team “on a roll,” but it’s really just percentages reverting to the norm. It will eventually happen for the Flyers, just like it did for Flyers West, err, the Kings, last season.

Also, remember it’s early. I know all the garbage about the shortened schedule, but the Flyers are two points out of a playoff spot right now. Chill. Forget the clichés and the exaggerated importance because every game feels like an event after months without the NHL. Teams will still have ups and downs and it just so happen the Flyers are going through that early.

Posted on January 23, 2013, in Flyers, Nick Carroll, Posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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