Only six games into the season and people are struggling to figure out why this Flyers team is only 2-4. Lots of finger pointing has been going on, especially at the defense, but is the defense really the problem right now? Do we really need to offer sheet or trade for PK Subban? When you dig a little bit deeper, signs point to no.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why we our record is where it is: special teams. The sixth worst powerplay and the fifth worst shorthanded units are the prime suspects. At even strength we’ve more than held our own with a 7-6 goals for/against ratio thus far. The power play has been horrific scoring only three goals 51 minutes of 5v4 hockey (51 minutes with a man up leads the league, and 3 goals is at the bottom). Even worse than our PP unit is our PK unit with 9 goals allowed with the man down. While Ilya Bryzgalov has been very good at even strength (2 goals allowed in 5 games compared to 6 goals for; good for a .963 even strength save percentage, tied for 4th in the NHL) his .793 shorthanded save percentage ranks 42nd in the NHL and it’s far from his fault with the atrocious play of the PK in front of him.
(key: TOI= even strength ice time for every 60 minutes of hockey, CRQoC= Quality of competition (0 is average, positives are good competition) , QCQoT= Quality of teammates, Crel= Corsi Relative (basically a “+/-“ that calculates shots instead of goals with relativity to how good your team is), A1= primary assists per 60 minutes of ES ice time, Con= same as above but raw data without relativity to how good your team is), SFon/60= shots for while player is on the ice per 60 minutes, SAon/60= shots against while player is on the ice per 60, SFoff/60= shots for while player is off the ice (good to compare to SFon to see how team does with player on and off the ice), SAoff/60= shots against while player is off the ice, PPTOI and SHTOI are power play and shorthanded time on ice per 60 minutes of hockey.)
Analysis, Player by Player:
Braydon Coburn: vs. the toughest competition of any defender and leading the team in even-strength ice time, Coburn is truly this team’s #1 defender. He’s played 40% of his ice time with Nick Grossmann, 23% with Bruno Gervais, and 13% with Meszaros. He’s not only playing a regular shift with Grossmann, but he’s also taking a shift with a 3rd pair guy to keep the 5th and 6th defenders off the ice with one another and doing a damn good job. He also leads the team in SHTOI. The one thing I’d like to see him do better is hit the net when he shoots. In 15 attempts, he’s only hit the net 6 times. His 3.5 penalties per 60 minutes lead the team as well, that must improve. Grade: B
Luke Schenn: Not quite as controversial as Matt Carle, Schenner will be under the microscope for his time in Philly. Can he be a top-4 guy is the question with Schenn, and thus far he’s been that. I wrote about him [here] a few weeks ago attempting to guess how they’ll use Schenn and I was pretty much spot on. He’s getting a hefty majority of his minutes with Kimmo (67% of Schenn’s ice time) in addition to playing 45% of the time with Giroux. This is quantified in his 3.6 CRQoT, the highest on the team. He’s played average competition and put up pretty even results. You would like a him to drive play a little better considering his minutes with Claude, but the one number that stands out to me is 22.9. When he’s on the ice 22.9 shots are directed at our net per 60 minutes of play---easily the lowest on the team. When he’s off the ice, the 29.4 shots directed at the Flyers net are also the highest on the team (meaning we give up the most shots when Luke is NOT on the ice). Considering he starts slightly more in his own zone and he’s getting solid PK minutes, he’s put together a pretty solid start. Luke Schenn: B
Nick Grossmann: With roughly 50% of TOI with Coburn, people are underestimating Grossmann’s importance, especially considering he’s playing 30% of his time with bottom pair guys. He goes against other teams top players and has driven the play forward. The 31 SFon/60 we average with Grossmann is tops on the team. He also plays a key role on the PK. Grade: A-
Bruno Gervais: While Grossmann and Schenn have had high expectations coming into the season, Bruno Gervais has not had very high expectations. What he has done is had a great start. He’s been with Coburn 45% of his ice time, Grossman 25%, and Meszaros 20%, so he hasn’t really had an opportunity to gel with one guy. When he’s on the ice we average 13 more shots at the net than the opponents get off, the highest differential on the team. He doesn’t really belong on special teams, but he’s been a fantastic bottom-pair even strength guy. Grade: B+
Kimmo Timonen: He’s basically Luke Schenn’s mentor at even strength logging 80% of his own minutes with Luke. Kimmo’s driving play with an 8.8 Corsi Rel, tops on the team. He’s the point guy on the first PP unit and the best penalty killer we have on the back end (his 33.7 shots against per 60 is the best on the team---for comparison they give up 40 shots per 60 with Kimmo on the bench). While he may no longer be the huge minute eater he once was, his steady play lands him with a grade of: A-
Andrej Meszaros: He only played four games before getting hurt (out for roughly a month). He played with a plethora of defenders (Foster 27%, Coburn 26%, Gervais 20%) and will be sorely missed on the third pair and the second PP unit. Grade: Get Healthy
Kurtis Foster: He has a pretty good point shot. That sit for the “good”. When he’s on the ice we shoot the puck 24 times per 60 minutes and give up 41 shots. He plays against the worst competition of our defensive corps. He is not very good and will be replaced sooner than later. God he’s slow.
2 Other Options: Erik Gustafsson has been injured and will be called up to the Flyers once he’s healthy and has his skating legs under him. He’s 24, a two-time AHL All-Star, and he’s played regular and post season games for the Flyers. He has 14 points in 26 games this year and he’ll be the key to the second PP unit once he returns. Brandon Manning was Gus’ All-Star game replacement this year for the Phantoms with 19 points in 46 games. Cory Pronmann (top prospect guru in the world @coreypronmann ) describes Manning’s tools as “Hard working, physical, good hockey sense, subpar offensive skill.” Tim McManus, Phantom’s beat writer, when asked (by me on twitter) why we called up Lilja opposed to Manning last week responded by saying “Might be they’d rather Manning get more consistent AHL time than be 7th guy in Philly. But yeah, he could at least do as well [as Lilja].” I think he could be our 6th defender bumping Foster to the bench, but it’s not a horrible thing he’s playing big minutes in Adarondak.