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R.J. Umberger is getting better and playing tougher minutes

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It's not just your eyes: R.J. Umberger is getting better.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You've probably noticed that R.J. Umberger has been playing better hockey of late. It's true! The much-criticized Flyers forward has indeed been playing better hockey over the last 45 days to two months or so, and it's starting to show on the score sheet.

Umberger has nine goals on the year, and eight of them have come since the beginning of December. The best part is that it's not just an unsustainable shift in his luck, though. It's not as if pucks are just going in at a higher rate -- that he's getting the bounces, so to speak. The underlying numbers say he's playing better hockey.

umberger doin shit

Each of these numbers are rolling 10-game averages: the blue line is his Corsi percentage (shot attempts for and against while he's on the ice) and the red line is his rate of offensive zone starts (a measure of how tough his minutes are). Higher Corsi means the Flyers are controlling the play better while he's on the ice, and lower offensive zone starts means he's starting his shifts near his own net more frequently.

You would expect Corsi to drop as minutes get tougher. The opposite is happening with Umberger though. Maybe he's being given tougher minutes because he's getting better. Whatever is happening, though, it's good. Umberger himself just chalks it up to confidence.

"When you get some goals you start feeling it," Umberger said after last night's win against Arizona. "Since early December I kind of stepped into my role and understood it more and I feel confident out there skating better and have some chemistry with the line. I'm a little upset that we've been giving up a few goals these past few games because we had a long stretch where we weren't doing that but I think we need to take care of that first."

It probably helps that linemate Matt Read has been getting healthier as well, but let's just hope this keeps up. We have him around Philadelphia until 2017, so this is good to see.