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Should we worry about Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek's even strength scoring?

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Since the end of January, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for five even strength goals. Is this something to worry about?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Through three games, the Philadelphia Flyers' dynamic duo of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have been stymied in terms of offensive production. So far this season, Giroux has only one assist (via the power play) and Voracek has yet to make an appearance on the scoresheet.

Obviously, it's early. And three games are not nearly a large enough sample size to begin worrying about two players that battled for the Art Ross Trophy throughout the entirety of the 2014-15 season. But what if the decline in production actually dates back to January of last year?

At first glance, the lack of production is certainly concerning. While Giroux and Voracek do generate a large percentage of their scoring via the power play, they are also known as elite even strength forwards who drive play and provide tangible offensive value through goals and assists.

Much was made last season of Claude Giroux's struggles to score an even strength goal at the Wells Fargo Center, and while that narrative was undeniably overblown, could it have been hinting at a real problem? Are Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek really regressing at even strength?

5v5 shot volume still strong with Giroux & Voracek

Giroux and Voracek's even strength goal production began to drop off right around the all-star break. Specifically, Bill Meltzer broke down the last 35 games for Voracek and the last 37 games for Giroux. As a result, it makes sense to compare the forwards' performance from the first half of 2014-15 to their respective slumps and see if we can identify a cause for the decline.

The first possibility is that the Flyers are generating less shots with Giroux and Voracek on the ice. That would, in turn, cut down on the number of raw opportunities for the two stars to create offense. It also could point to an issue in the neutral zone - maybe the Flyers are struggling to enter the offensive zone with possession or failing to generate zone entries, resulting in less time on offense for Giroux and Voracek.

However, the numbers show us that is not the case.

Giroux (10/8/14 through 1/20/15) Giroux (1/27/15 through 10/13/15)

On-Ice Shot Attempts Per 60 (Corsi)

58.8 62.33

On-Ice Shots on Goal Per 60 (SOG)

30.6 30.25


Voracek (10/8/14 through 1/29/15) Voracek (1/31/15 through 10/13/15)

On-Ice Shot Attempts Per 60 (Corsi)

60.8 61.32

On-Ice Shots on Goal Per 60 (SOG)

31.8 30.96

Since the end of January, the Flyers (with Giroux and Voracek on the ice) have basically generated the same amount of 5v5 shots as they did before the two began to slump on the scoresheet. The overall shot attempt totals have actually gone up a bit, while there has been a minor decline in shots that have reached the goaltender.

It's not a huge drop, but maybe we're closer to solving the problem. Could Giroux and Voracek be sacrificing shot quality for shot volume? That would explain the decrease in scoring and provide the coaching staff with a quick fix - emphasize that the two stars get to more high percentage areas on the ice.

Giroux steady on scoring chances, Voracek not so much

The best way to determine if Giroux and Voracek are taking worse quality shots is to analyze scoring chance totals. Luckily, the great site war-on-ice.com tracks scoring chances automatically via shot location charts, so it's possible to analyze whether Giroux and Voracek are actually taking less quality shots on net now than they did in the first half of the 2014-15 season.

War-on-Ice also divides scoring chances into two categories - normal scoring chances and "high-danger" scoring chances. This gives even more insight into who is actually taking shots from the highest percentage areas of the ice.

So let's look at Giroux and Voracek's ability to personally take shots from scoring chance areas. Have either experienced a dropoff since late January?

Giroux (10/8/14 through 1/20/15) Giroux (1/27/15 through 10/13/15)

Individual 5v5 Scoring Chances per 60

9.70 9.47

Individual 5v5 "High-Danger"Scoring Chances per 60

3.01 3.23


Voracek (10/8/14 through 1/29/15) Voracek (1/31/15 through 10/13/15)

Individual 5v5 Scoring Chances per 60

8.18 7.27

Individual 5v5 "High-Danger" Scoring Chances per 60

4.00 2.81

The needle barely moves for Giroux. His overall scoring chance totals are a bit down, but he's actually generated more "high-danger" chances since starting his 5v5 goal "slump." Looking at this data, it appears that Giroux is still putting a similar amount of pressure on opposing goalies - the puck just hasn't gone in as much since January.

Voracek, on the other hand, does see a measurable decline. A drop from 4.00 "high-danger" scoring chances per 60 to 2.81 isn't insignficant, and it could legitimately mean that the Flyers' star winger is struggling to create chances, at least relative to his performance in the first half of last season.

"Not so fast!" says Voracek

Voracek's individual scoring chance statistics are absolutely down since the late-January allstar break, and could be helping to deflate his goal-scoring totals. But is this decline actually hurting the team at 5v5? Voracek may not be personally shooting the puck in high-percentage areas as much, but he could be simply focusing more on setting up his linemates for chances, resulting in no net even strength loss for the Flyers.

As it turns out, that's exactly what seems to be happening. The Flyers have actually generated more high percentage scoring chances since Jakub Voracek began slumping than they did in the first half of the 2014-15 season.

Voracek (10/8/14 through 1/29/15) Voracek (1/31/15 through 10/13/15)

On-Ice "High-Danger" Scoring Chances per 60

18.4 18.9

An argument can be made that the Flyers could be more efficient at capitalizing on those scoring chances if Voracek was the one taking the final shot. After all, Jakub Voracek is a world-class forward with a career shooting efficiency over 10 percent. But in terms of raw chances created, Voracek's dropoff does not seem to be hurting the team much.

It all comes back to shooting percentage

So what's really going on here? If the top line is still generating both shots and scoring chances at a similar rate as they did between October of 2014 and January of 2015, then why have Giroux and Voracek struggled to score at even strength over the past 35+ games?

Unsurprisingly, shooting percentage seems to be the culprit.

Late January - Present 5v5 Shooting Percentage Career 5v5 Shooting Percentage
Claude Giroux 5.5% 9.74%
Jakub Voracek 1.59% 9.53%

Both Giroux and Voracek have scored at a rate far below their career averages at even strength. Since they are still flourishing in terms of shot creation and scoring chance creation, it seems like finishing ability has been the only real problem for the Flyers' two stars since January.

And since both are still solidly within their prime years, it's unlikely that their true scoring talent rates would suffer a permanent drop. It's far more likely that both will start scoring again at 5v5 - and very soon.

Conclusion

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek's goal struggles at even strength have definitely limited the Flyers' offense since the end of January. Philadelphia understandably leans on their two most talented players to drive play and put the puck in the back of the net, and recently, the two forwards have failed in the latter duty at 5v5.

But their underlying statistics remain strong. Giroux and Voracek continue to generate shot attempts and high-quality scoring chances at the same rate as they did in the first half of last season, and in some ways, they've actually improved. Their recent even strength scoring slumps are directly related to shooting percentages far below their respective career averages.

Their process remains sound. Expect the results to turn around shortly.

All statistics generated from www.war-on-ice.com.