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A fun fact* about the Flyers' defensive play so far this season

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* Please note: fact may not actually be fun.

This has been happening a lot.
This has been happening a lot.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a fourth straight loss last night, there were some positives to be taken from the Flyers' 4-1 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks. There were some very solid stretches of play in that game, and some excellent individual performances. However, it did see one trend continue that the Flyers are going to want to cut out very soon.

Vancouver put 34 shots on Steve Mason's goal last night. That's not great -- in fact, the league-worst average shots-against mark for any team this year is 33.4 (and I'll give you one guess which team currently holds that honorable mark). But it's also become a bit of a norm for the Flyers so far, who have let their opponent tally at least 30 shots on goal in every game they've played so far this season -- all eleven of them.

Game 5-on-5 SA 4-on-4 SA PK SA PP SA 3-on-3 SA Other* SA Total Shots Against
10/8 @TB 21 0 5 0 5 0 32
10/10 @FLA 22 1 5 1 0 0 30
10/12 FLA 24 0 5 0 0 2 31
10/14 CHI 20 0 8 0 0 0 30
10/20 DAL 28 0 3 0 0 0 32
10/21 @BOS 25 0 2 2 1 0 30
10/24 NYR 33 0 3 2 3 0 39
10/27 BUF 33 0 4 1 2 1 40
10/29 NJD 24 0 6 2 0 1 33
10/30 @BUF 18 4 13 2 0 1 36
11/2 @VAN 27 5 1 0 0 1 34
Averages 25 0.9 5 0.9 1 0.5 33.4

* "Other" typically includes situations in which one team has their goalie pulled.

Eleven straight games allowing 30-plus shots on goal isn't something that the Flyers have done since ... well, it's tough to figure that out. Hockey-reference's play index goes as far back as 1987, and looking through each of the individual seasons in there, I couldn't find any with 11 straight games of 30-plus shots against (though, admittedly, I was eyeballing those -- I could be off there).

Meanwhile, the war-on-ice.com single-game database only goes as far back as 2005, and the worst I could find between now and then was a 10-game stretch between January 13 and February 8 of 2007. We don't want to have to rehash just how awful that '06-'07 season was, but just think: they're doing a worse job preventing shots so far this year than they were at any point in that year. Which is pretty bad!

Now, with that all said, a few quick caveats:

  • The Flyers have already played in four overtime games out of 11. That's a lot, and much more than the average NHL team (through Monday's games, there had been 33 games that reached overtime, meaning the average team has played in just over one two OT games so far this year). So you would expect them to have faced a few more shots than the average team, and that's especially so once you consider the new 3-on-3 overtime format that just leads to offense everywhere. Two of those games above would not have seen 30-plus shots go against the Flyers had they not gone to OT.
  • As you can also see in the table, the Flyers' first six games never saw their opponents top 32 shots on goal. Noteworthily absent from the five games since then is center Sean Couturier, possibly the team's best defensive forward, who was of course injured against Boston and hasn't played since. Part of the spike in shots against since then can surely be attributed to his absence.
  • Despite the Flyers not having had a consecutive-games streak like this for a while, they have had cumulative stretches in which they've given up more total shots than they have in this 11-game stretch. In fact, there were a few last season -- one in November and one at the end of the year in April -- though before then there had been none since the 2010-11 season. So while what the Flyers have done is uncommon and in a couple of ways unprecedented, it's not completely unprecedented.

And, of course, there's the obvious disclaimer that these 11 games are the first 11 professional hockey games coached by their head coach, who's working with what's probably a bottom-5 group of NHL defensemen. Some early bumps in the road, by themselves, are not surprising.

Still, though, let's look at this another way. The Flyers haven't played a single game in which they've held their opponent under 30 shots. Unshockingly, no other team can claim this. Is anyone else close, though?

Team Games Played Games Allowing Less Than 30 Shots
Philadelphia 11 0
Colorado 11 4
Detroit 11 4
Florida 11 4
Ottawa 11 4
Winnipeg 12 4
Anaheim 11 5
NY Rangers 11 5
Pittsburgh 11 5
Boston 10 6
Calgary 12 6
Dallas 12 6
Tampa Bay 13 6
Toronto 11 6
Arizona 11 7
Chicago 12 7
Edmonton 12 7
Los Angeles 11 7
Minnesota 11 7
Montreal 13 7
Brooklyn 12 7
San Jose 11 7
Vancouver 12 7
Carolina 12 8
Columbus 12 8
New Jersey 11 8
St. Louis 11 8
Washington 10 8
Buffalo 12 9
Nashville 11 9

Turns out, no! No one else is even remotely close. Even the next-worst teams like Colorado and Detroit have managed to hold their opponents under this (admittedly arbitrary) threshold in about one-third of their games. (And even if you give the Flyers credit for those two 3-on-3 games, they'd still be well behind the rest of the pack here.)

That's the really jarring thing here. Via war-on-ice, the average NHL game this season (through Monday) has seen each team put up 29.53 shots per game. By that standard, the Flyers haven't even stumbled their way to a single above-average defensive performance.

There's a lot in play here. As you well know by now, the Flyers' defensive personnel really just isn't very good -- this goes beyond Brandon Manning or Nick Schultz or Radko Gudas being bad; it takes a near-collective effort to be quite this rough.

Their struggles at 5-on-5 aren't surprising, and the fact that they as a team (a) spend more time per game on the penalty kill than any team in the NHL except for Florida (via nhl.com) and (b) have floundered recently on the penalty kill itself is only compounding those issues.

This streak won't last forever. (I think. I hope?) But it's as apparent as ever that this team is going to need to lean on its offense and goaltending if it wants to have any shot at making some noise this year -- and this makes it such that when the offense is going through a slump the way it has been for the past week or so, or when the goalies have a rough game, they're barely going to have any chance.