In the month of October, the Flyers went 6-5-1 in 12 games good for 13 points and two points ahead of Boston, Washington, and Detroit for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Pretty good start for a team that has traditionally done the exact opposite, but is it sustainable? That’s hopefully what the Corsi report for the month will show us, or at least provide a better picture of where the team sits one month in.
Team report: 5-on-5 numbers show improvement
The Flyers record of 6-5-1 matches essentially what their raw team metrics say: this team is average. Philadelphia performed at a 49.20 CF% which ranks 18th in the NHL, with 495 Corsi for (ranked 17th) and 511 Corsi against (ranked 18th). The lowest CF% for a single game this season has been 41.18% which came vs Nashville in their home opener, the crushing 6-5 regulation loss. The high point of the month was, ironically but oh so fittingly enough, 58.62% in a loss to the Ottawa Senators.
The biggest change from last year to this one is the 5v5 goal scoring. The Flyers rank 12th in the league in 5v5 goals-for, and tied for 12th in goals against. While that may not seem impressive, they are 10th in the league in 5v5 goals-for percentage. Comparatively, the Flyers ranked 24th last season in the same category. Obviously this could be a case of small sample size, but this is definitely a good sign for a team who’s 5v5 struggles have been present for years.
GF% NHL Rankings
Goaltending has improved, too
Another part of the Flyers early season success has been the play of the goaltenders at 5v5. Not only have they been getting quality starts more often than not from the duo of Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott, their GA/60 is among the best in the league. They rank 8th in the NHL just behind the reigning Western Conference champion Predators.
In terms of expected goals, the Flyers hang right around the same area, 12th in the NHL in xGF% at 51.33%. As you may have expected, the Flyers PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) is mid pack as well. They sit 16th in the league with a 100.71 PDO. All of these factors adding up to put the Flyers in a good, but not great, position to start the season.
Shot selection has improved
Last season a lot of the talk was the amount of offense coming from point shots, and not enough being done in high percentage areas. This season it looks as though head coach Dave Hakstol has realized this and worked to fix it.
Involving the defense in his offense is something Hakstol will always do and when it works it is downright beautiful hockey. The problem has consistently been the personnel he has on the back end not being fit to run this type of system — or like last year where no goalie could make a save and he had to dial back.
While the Flyers are still allowing too many chances in the home plate area, they are finally creating a better amount of chances there to keep up with opposing teams. It’s not perfect, but it’s at the very least a step in the right direction.
Flyers raw CF% leaders
Success of the 1st and 4th lines, struggles for Patrick
Coming into this season, a lot of people looked at the Giroux - Couturier - Voracek line as a failure waiting to happen. What has actually transpired is the exact opposite, with each member of the top line being over 53% CF. The fourth line has not put together the raw point totals the first line has, but their possession numbers are actually more impressive. The “Honey Bees” have been outstanding this year, keeping teams hemmed in their own zone which is something us Flyers fans have been desperately craving from a fourth line.
Nolan Patrick has definitely struggled from a possession standpoint to begin his NHL career, and his apparent concussion suffered against Anaheim last week adds injury to insult. The main thing to remember, however, is of course SSS, but also that the majority of his time has been spent on a line with Dale Weise...not exactly the best use of a guy known for his offensive prowess. Yes, this struggle could continue for Patrick, but it could also dissipate with more experience - and a better line.
As for the defense, overall it has been pretty decent. Travis Sanheim has excelled in the CF% game which is no surprise since he’s been paired with analytics star Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov put up decent numbers with Andrew MacDonald and was excellent with Shayne Gostisbehere — but with the injuries to both of them — Provy is seemingly with a new partner every game.
Flyers xGF% Leaders
Yes, I too was surprised that Andrew MacDonald had that high of an expected goals-for percentage.
There are a few differences between the two tables and the most notable of course being that A-Mac didn’t actually fair too horribly in this department. Of course, his sample size is smaller than every other skater except for Brandon Manning and Jori Lehtera. The BSH Radio gang (minus Steph) even discussed the early season decent success of MacDonald, and if it would be sustainable.
Another key difference to note is the lack of the fourth line among the leaders in xGF%, even though they were the best line in terms of CF%. The top fourth line Flyer in this stat is Scott Laughton at 54.11%, while his linemates do not even reach 50% with Leier at 48.32 and Raffl at 47.98.
- The Flyers are more or less what they are
- Middle six needs to drive play at a better rate
- Defense needs to lower chances from home plate area
Looking at these stats there was a clear spot where the Flyers typically fell: middle of the pack. Which makes all the sense in the world because they sit tied for 13th in the NHL in points, just a bit better than mid pack. They currently are on pace for an 88 point season which in some seasons, gets you a playoff berth. I believe the Flyers are a better team than this at their full potential, but as for right now, metrics don’t lie.
The middle six containing the likes of Wayne Simmonds, Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Weal, Lehtera, Patrick (when he returns) and Travis Konecny, need to be better. With the first and fourth lines playing so well, it makes it nearly impossible to suggest breaking them up even slightly to help this group get better.
The Flyers offense has done a much better job of generating chances from high percentage areas, however the defense is still allowing these chances at a staggering rate. It hasn’t bit them too hard in the early going, but this is something Hakstol will need to work on for this team to keep the puck out of their own net.
All stats via Corsica.hockey and Natural Stat Trick