Flyers' Defensemen Zone Starts and Corsi Observations at Mid-Point

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 18: Andrej Meszaros #41 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his second-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center on November 18 2010 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After looking at the Flyers' forwards zone starts and Corsi scores on Sunday, we promised to look at the defensemen prior to Tuesday's game. Here, we do.

As a reminder, Fenwick and Corsi scores are simply plus/minus statistics that use shots rather than goals. Corsi includes all shots directed at the net (goals, saves, missed shots, and blocked shots) while Fenwick is the same, minus blocked shots.

Similarly, zone starts are simply a calculation of every faceoff players are on the ice for. The number is expressed as a percent of offensive zone draws compared to offensive and defensive faceoffs. The non-icing zone start is exactly as it sounds: it removes those defensive zone draws which are the result of an icing.  This shows you how the coaches are using the players.

Jump to see the numbers.

As you wanted, the table:

GF GA Fen% Corsi% OZ% NI OZ%
Bartulis 2 7 0.417 0.425 0.394 0.467
Coburn 37 29 0.522 0.512 0.508 0.555
O`Donnell 30 18 0.463 0.465 0.419 0.472
Pronger 24 18 0.534 0.512 0.539 0.575
Carle 46 31 0.549 0.532 0.510 0.554
Meszaros 37 13 0.529 0.528 0.437 0.477
Timonen 28 21 0.518 0.509 0.508 0.548
Bobrovsky 59 40 0.517 0.505 0.473 0.523
Boucher 38 26 0.526 0.524 0.520 0.546
Leighton 5 2 0.358 0.361 0.357 0.385
TEAM 102 68 0.517 0.508 0.487 0.528

If you don't remember how to analyze this information, please return to the previous post on the forwards.

I excluded Oskars Bartulis from the offensive zone start category since he has so few, but it's fascinating that he has the worst numbers of any defenseman. It's also interesting to see that the Flyers routinely send their third-pairing (even if it includes Bartulis) out in the defensive zone, while the other two pairings get fairly similar offensive starts.

Not surprisingly, the only defensemen with a lower Corsi rating than the team are Bartulis and Sean O`Donnell.  This year, the defensemen as a group are remarkably good at controlling the play. It is here that Andrej Meszaros deserves a lot of credit, as he is able to record the second-highest Corsi despite having the fifth-highest zone-start.

Something interesting is the difference between Chris Pronger's Fenwick and Corsi. This suggests a high number of opponents shots that are blocked.

Just like for the forwards, it's important to check the defensemen's PDO scores.  While all three of Meszaros, O`Donnell, and Bartulis are getting unsustainably high on-ice save percentage, only Bartulis is getting unsustainably low on-ice shooting percentage.

Part of the reasoning for this can be found in the quality of their competition, which sees those three facing the opponent's worst at controlling the play.

Lastly, the play of the team in front of their goalies is truly surprising. The team is remarkably better at controlling the play while Brian Boucher is in net compared to Sergei Bobrovsky. They get a higher percentage of the shots and they have a higher percentage of offensive zone faceoffs with him in net.

And yet, the team is scoring 3.24 goals per 60 minutes for Bobrovsky and "only" 2.80 for Boucher.  Perhaps score effects are the reason for this - meaning, the Flyers get an early lead for Bobrovsky, thus giving up more shots to the opposition attempting to come back - but that's still a wide gap.

Conclusion

The Flyers deploy their third-pairing in the defensive zone much more frequently than any other, and yet they still face the weakest the opposition has to offer. One may be the result of the other - they get weak opposition because the other team is hiding them in the offensive zone; or they get weak zone starts because they're being matched against the worst - but Meszaros is by far the best at pushing the play forward.

The Flyers also do a great job of controlling the play while Boucher is in net, but they do a much better job at scoring with Bobrovsky.

Sorry there isn't more interesting things in here. That's what happens when there are two pairs of defensemen who are being used in much the same way, with similar results; and a third-pairing that is used the same way, with Meszaros out-performing his situations.

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