We're all overjoyed that the Flyers have run up an 8-2-1 record since the Olympic break, winning the last 5 since the home-and-home with Pittsburgh. They've looked quite good doing it, too, passing the eye test with flying colors even if their possession stats aren't much better than the rest of the year. The special teams seem to have been clicking very well in that stretch, oftentimes being held up as "why they won."
So bearing the small sample size in mind, I looked at those 11 games for shooting percentage, PP and PK efficiency, shot differential, and Save % by the goalies, then compared them to the full-season numbers (including those 11 games).
The Flyers appear to be benefitting mostly from improved shooting % and penalty killing %, and improved shot differentials.
- Their overall shooting % this season so far is 9.6 (again, includes the last 11 games), while they've been scoring at an 11.4% clip recently, for a boost of 1.8%).
- The penalty killing has been excellent over these 11 games, at 86.7%, which would be good for 2nd in the league if were over the whole season (NJ has 86.8% so far). 86.7 represents a boost of 2.2% over the Flyers' season result of 84.5%.
- The powerplay has also been strong, clocking in at 21.4% vs their season mark of 19.9% (+ 1.5%).
- The rate of shots against in the 11 games is 2 shots/gm fewer than season rate.
- The rate of shots for in the 11 games is 2.2 shots/gm more than season rate.
All those numbers could regress a bit, but on the other hand, they're not radically out of line. So any regression should be Mild, rather than Severe.
Even better news - depending how you look at it - is the goaltending has been sub-par over the 11 game stretch.
- Mason has put up .906 save pct over the 11 games, allowing 26 goals on 283 shots against, while Emery has allowed 5 goals on 38 shots.
- Combined, that's a .903 performance, below the team's overall .909 on the season.
- That's 2/3 of a percent lower than the season performance, which works out to only 1.3 more goals given up based on the season's total goals against. So there is room for goaltending improvement (good news!), but more room for scoring regression and special teams regression (bad news).
So summing up the small sample trends of the last 11 games:
- Goaltending: 1.79 extra goals allowed over the 11 games compared to season rate (.909 x 321 works out to 29.21 goals allowed on 321 shots; Mason & Emery have allowed 31.)
- Scoring: 3.6 extra goals scored overall compared to season rate
- PP %: .64 extra power-play goals compared to season rate (included above)
- PK %: 1 extra penalty killed compared to season rate (1 fewer PPG against, included above)
- Shots Agst: 2 fewer shots against per game
- Shots For: 2.2 more shots for
- Shot Diff: + 4.2 over the 11 games, or +.382/gm compared to -.385/gm shot differential on the season.
So: 3.6 extra goals - .79 extra allowed = 2.81 extra goals that wouldn't have happened based on overall rates this season. That leaves more room for lost goals from overall scoring and PK regression, than for increased save % based on goaltending improvement to the seasonal mean.
I conclude that the Flyers are being driven by improved offense outweighing slightly worse goaltending. The offense has scored at a rate that produced 3.6 extra goals, while the goaltending has allowed .79 extra goals over the 11 games. The PP and PK are clicking at higher rates, the shooting % is above season rate but not radically, and the shot differential is vastly improved.
It's good to see the offense working so well, and the 2-shot improvement in suppression. But there is more room for offensive regression than goaltending improvement, based on season averages. So the outlook should be for some regression, but nothing terrible. If the seasonal rates for all these high-level stats are the team's true talent, then they are likely to falter a bit, but remain strong, if they keep their mental state focused and confident. And of course, once they're in the playoffs, anything can happen. They should fear only Boston.
NOTE: Steve Mason, despite posting a .908 during this 11 game run, has a .916 for the season, placing him 13th among goalies with more than 1000 shots faced (all of whom actually have more than 1200 shots against). He's tied with Kari Lehtonen, right between Luongo (ahead) and Mike Smith (behind). The Flyers haven't had over .910 seasonal save % by a goalie since Biron. He's also ahead of Fluery, but just barely.
Questions not addressed: What if we eliminate (arbitrarily, of course), the first 15 games, all the ones before Giroux scored his first goal? Is that the team's true talent, and how much do these coarse metrics improve?