I had an idea recently to look at the advanced stats for some best and worst games of 2011-12. I thought it'd be fun to remind everyone of some particularly dominating performances the Flyers had this year.
When I actually produced the list, however, I realized that score effects were a real problem. Teams tend to go into a defensive shell when they're ahead and concede the neutral zone, allowing the other team to outshoot them; I didn't want to argue that a couple of losses to Tampa Bay were among the Flyers' most dominating performances of the year.
Instead, we will look at individual performances, looking for the games where a player's presence on the ice had the biggest impact. In this article, we start with the best individual performances of the year from a possession standpoint.
#1: James van Riemsdyk vs the Capitals, December 13, 2011
He wasn't named one of the game's three stars, he wasn't mentioned at all in the BSH game recap and only at the very end of the NHL.com recap, but as PursuitOfLappyness noted, van Riemsdyk had an outstanding game when it came to pushing play forwards. In their first game without Claude Giroux after his concussion, the Flyers handled the Capitals 5-1. van Riemsdyk had a good-but-not-spectacular night on the conventional box score, with two assists and two shots on goal in his 14:32 of ice time.
And yet the non-traditional metrics told a different story.
The Flyers outshot the Capitals 14-1 when van Riemsdyk was on the ice. That wasn't because the Flyers were just dominating that night -- they got outshot 28-15 when he was off the ice. Whenever he was in the game, the ice tilted in the Flyers' favor, and as soon as he headed back to the bench, the play went the other way.
He finished the game with a relative Corsi (a measure of his impact on the shot differential) of +46, the highest of the year and earning him this year's Corsi gold medal.
Making it particularly impressive is that this outstanding game wasn't the product of being spoonfed easy situations. Sometimes a player can appear to have a positive impact on shot differential just because they get the easy shifts -- in the offensive zone against weak opponents -- and their opponents take on the tough minutes. But in this case, van Riemsdyk started in the defensive zone as often as the offensive zone, and he played primarily against the Caps' strong top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin.
He may not have scored a goal that night, but winning the shot battle decisively against that line goes a long way towards helping the team win, and he should wear his Corsi gold medal with pride.
#2: Scott Hartnell vs the Islanders, March 15, 2012
The last game of Ilya Bryzgalov's shutout streak was a 3-2 victory over the Islanders, one that unquestionably would not have happened without Hartnell's performance.
Their performances mirrored their personalities; while van Riemsdyk's possession dominance flew under the radar, Hartnell's was an in-your-face performance that earned him second star of the night, with a goal land an assist.
With Hartnell on the ice, the shot attempts were 23-8 in the Flyers' favor; when he was off the ice it was 42-22 against, giving him a Corsi Rel of +35. The one time the Islanders had the gall to try to keep the puck in the Flyers' end with Hartnell on the ice, he did this:
For this performance, Hartnell earned the Corsi silver medal.
#3: Brayden Schenn vs the Senators, January 8, 2012
The Flyers led this game 4-2 headed into the third period. Unfortunately a soft goal tied the game, and with just over a minute left, a slapshot by Filip Kuba put Ottawa ahead as they went on to win.
How different would things have been if the shot below had made it 5-2 late in the second? We'll never know for sure, but my hunch is that the Flyers would have won and Schenn would have gotten a star of the game nod.
He may have been robbed there, but Schenn still drove the play for the Flyers in this game and put them in position to win. The Flyers had 19 shot attempts to Ottawa's 9 with Schenn on the ice at even strength, compared to a 54-32 shot deficit when he was off the ice. That gives him a Corsi Rel of +32 and the Corsi bronze medal.