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Flyers vs. Capitals: Individual player zone entry numbers from regular season matchups

Yesterday, we used entry data to look at how the Flyers and Capitals performed against each other in the regular season at a team level. Today, we'll analyze the individual players.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals both dwell in the Metropolitan Division in the NHL's Eastern Conference, the two teams are familiar foes. In fact, the Flyers and Capitals have faced off on four separate occasions during the 2015-16 regular season.

Now, Philadelphia and Washington will battle at least four additional times this season. By slipping into the postseason as the second wild card in the East, the Flyers have the honor of facing the most successful division champion in the conference. That happens to be the Capitals, who racked up a whopping 56 wins and 120 total standings points.

For analysis purposes, the fact that the two squads played each other on multiple occasions this season gives us a wealth of data. All season long, I've tracked the individual entries at during five-on-five play for the Philadelphia Flyers, and the resulting data helps us to better understand the performance of the team in all three zones of play. Yesterday, we posted the team-level metrics from all four regular season games between the Capitals and Flyers, and analyzed the tactical implications of the data.

But the entry data can be broken down on an individual player level, as well. Usually, I only track the individual entries for the Philadelphia Flyers, but once it became obvious that the Capitals would be Philadelphia's playoff opponent, I went back and tracked individual entries for Washington as well. As a result, we can get an early scouting read on the Capitals, while also checking to see if any of the Flyers' metrics are dramatically different than their full-season sample.

Philadelphia Flyers Individual Zone Entries vs. Capitals

Forward Games Played Controlled Entry Percentage Entries Per 60
Claude Giroux 4 47.83% 25.23
Jakub Voracek 4 63.64% 25.00
Nick Cousins 2 62.50% 22.75
Ryan White 4 0.00% 22.55
Chris VandeVelde 4 12.50% 22.43
Brayden Schenn 4 52.94% 21.61
Matt Read 4 33.33% 20.69
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare 3 9.09% 20.50
Sam Gagner 4 53.85% 20.05
Michael Raffl 4 43.75% 20.00
Scott Laughton 3 54.55% 20.00
Wayne Simmonds 4 50.00% 15.73
Sean Couturier 2 66.67% 14.69

Defenseman Games Played Controlled Entry Percentage Entries Per 60
Shayne Gostisbehere 3 45.45% 15.90
Brandon Manning 2 100.00% 9.17
Radko Gudas 4 37.50% 7.33
Nick Schultz 4 16.67% 6.01
Mark Streit 4 50.00% 5.55
Andrew MacDonald 1 100.00% 4.69

Observations

  • In yesterday's team-level analysis, I noted that the Flyers played an dump-and-chase heavy tactical style in the four matchups against the Capitals, finishing with a 43.10% Controlled Entry percentage in the season series. But through evaluating the individual numbers, it looks like that team entry percentage is skewed dramatically by the fourth line's performance. Six of the Flyers' nine forwards on their top three lines posted a Controlled Entry percentage over 50 percent, implying that the skill players have been fairly successful in creating chances off the rush. But Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Ryan White chose to dump the puck in at every opportunity possible. VandeVelde led the line with a 12.50% Controlled Entry rate, while every single one of White's entries were dump-ins. Therefore, the initial finding that the Flyers primarily entered the offensive zone without possession of the puck isn't fully accurate. The top three lines actually took a far more balanced approach, while the Untouchables unit exclusively went the dump-and-chase route.
  • Elsewhere, the metrics come with few surprises. Jakub Voracek was the most effective entry creator among Flyers forwards, just as he was throughout the year. Shayne Gostisbehere yet again left the rest of the defense in the dust from an offense creation standpoint, another shocker. Philadelphia could certainly use more active puck carrying from Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, however, as they brought up the rear in entries per 60 when facing the Capitals. We're talking about a very small four-game sample here, but it's at least something to watch out for in the upcoming series.

Washington Capitals Individual Zone Entries vs. Flyers

Forward Games Played Controlled Entry Percentage Entries Per 60
Jay Beagle 2 16.67% 31.17
T.J. Oshie 4 44.00% 30.06
Andre Burakovsky 4 78.26% 26.54
Alexander Ovechkin 4 69.57% 25.00
Evgeny Kuznetsov 4 57.89% 21.76
Tom Wilson 4 46.67% 21.58
Jason Chimera 4 53.33% 20.41
Nicklas Backstrom 4 63.16% 19.49
Marcus Johansson 3 55.56% 18.06
Daniel Winnik 1 0.00% 13.48
Justin Williams 4 45.45% 12.94
Mike Richards 3 16.67% 11.76
Michael Latta 3 33.33% 7.53

Defenseman Games Played Controlled Entry Percentage Entries Per 60
Dmitry Orlov 4 57.14% 15.05
Karl Alzner 4 16.67% 10.60
Nate Schmidt 4 30.00% 9.87
John Carlson 4 44.44% 8.84
Matt Niskanen 4 37.50% 6.72
Brooks Orpik 1 100.00% 3.45

Observations

  • You expect to see Alexander Ovechkin ranking high on the entry charts, both from a raw totals standpoint and in terms of a high controlled entry rate. But I can't say I expected Andre Burakovsky to be so impressive. He was the third-best Capital in Entries per 60, so he clearly took an active role in carrying the puck. In addition, a whopping 78.26% of his entries came with possession of the puck, the best rate on a team with stars like Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. I'll be watching Burakovsky very closely in this series to determine if this is a four-game sample size fluke, or if he is actually a lot more skilled with the puck than I previously believed.
  • He may not have the eye-popping point totals of Shayne Gostisbehere, but Dmitry Orlov was right there with the Flyers' rookie sensation during the four Flyers-Capitals matchups in creating offense in the neutral zone. With the exception of Brooks Orpik, all of the regular Washington defensemen have solid puck-moving skillsets, but Orlov stands above the pack when it comes to aggressively transitioning the puck from defense to offense. The Flyers would be well served to keep their eye on Orlov when he's on the ice, as it's clear he will not hesitate to join the rush if given the opportunity.

Philadelphia Flyers On-Ice Neutral Zone Performance

Player Neutral Zone Score
Shayne Gostisbehere 52.20%
Radko Gudas 50.97%
Brandon Manning 50.67%
Jakub Voracek 50.37%
Matt Read 50.12%
Sean Couturier 50.00%
Sam Gagner 50.00%
Michael Raffl 50.00%
Brayden Schenn 48.82%
Wayne Simmonds 48.56%
Andrew MacDonald 48.38%
Claude Giroux 47.57%
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare 47.02%
Nick Cousins 44.95%
Evgeny Medvedev 44.65%
Mark Streit 44.43%
Chris VandeVelde 43.84%
Nick Schultz 43.37%
Scott Laughton 43.46%
Ryan White 41.83%

Observations

  • The Flyers' on-ice neutral zone data for the four games against Washington is surprising so much as in just how painfully predictable it is. Philadelphia's best microstat defenseman and its best play driving defenseman lead the way in Neutral Zone Score. The forwards hovering around the 50% mark are all solidly stationed on one of the team's top three lines, and then there's a substantial dropoff before you get to the Untouchables line and the two youngest forwards (Laughton and Cousins). The Flyers will need far better play from their fourth line in this series, and it starts with not dumping the puck into the offensive zone at every opportunity. The unit isn't absent of puck carrying skill -- after all, both Bellemare and VandeVelde finished with full-season Controlled Entry percentages over 40% -- but they clearly need to do a better job of moving through the middle of the ice with speed against Washington.
  • Philadelphia's top line through a good portion of the second half of the season (Giroux, Schenn and Simmonds) all performed below a 50% Neutral Zone Score when facing the Capitals, which is certainly not a good sign. As Kurt mentioned yesterday, Giroux struggled when matched up against his 1C counterpart Backstrom, a trend that simply cannot continue if the Flyers want to spring the upset in this series. The neutral zone data shows that Giroux's issues with the Caps cannot be blamed on poor defensive zone shot suppression or ineffective play on the cycle. He and his linemates just didn't get it done in the middle of the ice.

Washington Capitals On-Ice Neutral Zone Performance

Player Neutral Zone Score
Andre Burakovsky 58.15%
T.J. Oshie 57.08%
Nicklas Backstrom 57.04%
Evgeny Kuznetsov 56.24%
Alexander Ovechkin 55.41%
Matt Niskanen 54.82%
John Carlson 53.82%
Karl Alzner 53.35%
Marcus Johansson 51.78%
Justin Williams 51.76%
Jay Beagle 51.73%
Dmitry Orlov 51.45%
Nate Schmidt 48.31%
Tom Wilson 46.82%
Jason Chimera 45.36%
Brooks Orpik 44.08%
Daniel Winnik 42.89%
Michael Latta 42.35%
Mike Richards 41.09%

Observations

  • Earlier today, I noted that the Flyers will be hard-pressed to slow down Washington's powerhouse top two lines, but could potentially exploit their bottom-six. The good news is, at least from a neutral zone standpoint, Philadelphia did just that in the regular season. Tom Wilson, Jason Chimera, Daniel Winnik and Mike Richards all posted Neutral Zone Scores below 47% in their games against the Flyers, as they were pummeled from an entry standpoint. The bad news is that Washington's top players were so effective that the Caps still carried play in the middle of the ice as a team. Through four games, the Flyers showed that they can get the better of the Capitals third and fourth lines. Now they need to figure out how to limit the damage against the big guns.