PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 04: Kimmo Timonen #44 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on in Game Four of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at Wachovia Center on June 4, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
We're at the midway point of the 2011-12 season, with game No. 42 set to be played this evening in the smelliest part of the armpit of America, the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. Before we look ahead to the matchup with the Islanders on Thursday night, let's take a look back at the season so far.
We'll grade every defensive player based on their performance thus far this season. Some have lived up to expectations, some have surpassed them, and others have been downright awful. We're only going to look at players who've played at least 10 games for the team this year -- except no Kevin Marshall and we're including Matt Walker, for fun.
What's there to say about Kimmo that hasn't been said already? The dude is consistently one of the more overlooked players in the league, at least as far as I'm concerned, and he's just a bad ass. He plays through injury, even when he should probably just sit out a relatively meaningless game against Ottawa in early January. He plays the most minutes on the team night in and night out (usually) and he does it against the top competition.
No reason to give Kimmo anything less than an A+++++++.
When the captain has been in the lineup, he's been the typical Chris Pronger -- pace-setter, leader, dominant defenseman in all situations. But of course, he hasn't been in the lineup all that much this season, so it's literally impossible to give him a grade. Just get well, Prongs.
Coburn hasn't been all that loud this season. Really, night in and night out, he's been very quiet. We never notice him, we rarely talk about him. And I'm sure that's just fine with No. 5, as it means he's probably putting together a decent season. It's been sort of middle-of-the-road for Coburn, despite the fact that he's mostly playing with Timonen.
He's right in the middle of the pack when it comes to basically everything: team-rank in Corsi, goals against per 60 minutes, on-ice team save percentage per 60 minutes. He's second on the team (if you ignore Pronger) in Corsi Rel QoC, which suggests he's playing against tough opponents -- obviously, he's on the top pairing -- but he's had middling results against that competition.
We'll give him marks for the tough minutes he's seeing, but Coburn hasn't been impressively wonderful, nor has he been noticeably awful.
We've talked in the past about how good Carle has been -- either with Pronger or without him -- and nothing has changed this season. We notice Carle on the ice quiet a bit, mostly because he chips in offensively quite a bit, and as a result, we tend to notice when he screws up more than most other defensemen on the team.
But that's unfair, because defensively, Carle has been solid. Keep in mind that he doesn't have the benefit of playing with Pronger or Timonen this year again, and that lately, he's been primarily with rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon, and his numbers get even more impressive. Leading the defense in ice time per game, behind only Kimmo in Corsi. He's secondary when it comes to quality of competition, but he's on the second line and playing with a rookie. To be expected.
We have to take away from Carle a bit because he's near the top -- behind just Kevin Marshall and Matt Walker -- when it comes to goals against per 60, although he has an on-ice save percentage of just .887, suggesting the goalies are playing poorly while he's on the ice.
Overall, Carle's been solid in his role, and he's seemingly gotten better since Pronger went down and his minutes stepped up. And remember, he's made Marc-Andre Bourdon look damn good.
That's not to say Bourdon hasn't looked good on his own. Since coming up from the Adirondack Phantoms, Bourdon has been effective, and that's really all we can ask. Peter Laviolette has been able to put Bourdon on the ice at basically any point of the game without worry, and for a rookie, that's absolutely huge.
Bourdon has more ice time per game than Andreas Lilja, and in recent games, he's even seen more ice than Andrej Meszaros. He's obviously not taking shifts on special teams or anything, but at even strength he's been extremely solid: middle of the pack in terms of competition, yeah, but fourth (including Pronger) on the team in Corsi.
He's ahead of Meszaros, Lilja and even Coburn in that department. Better than both Carle and Coburn in goals against while he's on the ice per 60, despite goalies saving just .889 percent of shots behind him while he's on the ice.
Bourdon's done everything asked of him, and sure, he hasn't been absolutely flawless. But for a guy that seemed destined for a career in the AHL, Bourdon has certainly made the most of his opportunity thus far with the Flyers. Let's hope it continues, and that he gets even better.
Meszaros won the Barry Ashbee Trophy last year as the best defenseman on the team. He wasn't the best defenseman on the team, obviously, but it was basically a way of saying "hey, you've made our third pairing really good, and coming off a season where we could've won the Cup with a better third pairing, you da man."
He hasn't been nearly as solid this season. Lilja has been bad next to him, but Meszaros hasn't been good enough to prop him up at all. Last season, he made Sean O'Donnell look quite good for at least a portion of the season, but he hasn't been able to help Lilja at all. Probably because he's playing poorly himself, playing against some of the worst competition the opposition has to offer and putting up an ugly Corsi in the process.
He won the Ashbee Trophy last year. He's getting paid like a top-four defenseman. He's not playing like it at all. He gets a D.
Lilja is a sixth defenseman. Seventh, even. We don't expect the sixth defenseman to light the world on fire. But let's go back to last week, when Eric T. wrote about Lilja's play since his injury:
Simply put, since he came back from his injury, Lilja has been killing the Flyers. The Flyers have gotten 45 shot attempts with him on the ice and the opponents have gotten 77. The opponents are driving play into the Flyers end against him and scoring goals -- he's been on the ice for five goals against in 61 minutes of play and no goals for.
It was particularly brutal yesterday. The Flyers tried to hide him by matching him up with Michael Rupp's line, a grouping that itself has a Corsi of -30 per 60 minutes. A line that wasn't beating anyone.
The numbers that followed were horrendous, so we won't subject you to that again. Lilja has been bad, and now that Erik Gustafsson is back, he's probably going to find himself in the press box.
Matt Walker -- F
True story: Walker is so bad that his stats widget isn't even showing up for me. So, no stats. But he gets an F. $1.7 million contract, can't even be trusted to play the simplest minutes in the NHL. Yeah, he's had some injury woes and that sucks, and at a cheaper price tag, he might be worth something, but the combination of that contract and his awful play makes it glorious that he's been sent back to the Phantoms.
We'll look at the forwards and the goaltenders tomorrow. Yeah, so what if it's after Game 42?