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Wild 3, Flyers 0: What we learned from a second straight shutout

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The Wild really need to change their name

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Minnesota Wild Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Corsi Report

Flyers raw CF% leaders

Skater CF CA CF% relCF%
Skater CF CA CF% relCF%
Valtteri Filppula 9 2 81.82 23.85
Jakub Voracek 19 7 73.08 17.52
Robert Hagg 19 8 70.37 13.77
Claude Giroux 18 8 69.23 11.82
Wayne Simmonds 13 6 68.42 9.4
Shayne Gostisbehere 20 10 66.67 8.67
Jori Lehtera 6 3 66.67 6.1
Ivan Provorov 22 12 64.71 6.01
Sean Couturier 17 10 62.96 2.59
Scott Laughton 9 6 60 -1.54
Brandon Manning 17 12 58.62 -4.12
Travis Sanheim 10 8 55.56 -7.35
Jordan Weal 16 13 55.17 -9.53
Dale Weise 14 12 53.85 -10.97
Taylor Leier 9 8 52.94 -10.55
Michael Raffl 8 8 50 -14.06
Travis Konecny 9 10 47.37 -18.21
Radko Gudas 10 12 45.45 -21.79
data from Natural Stat Trick

Flyers xGF% leaders

Skater xGF xGA xGF%
Skater xGF xGA xGF%
Valtteri Filppula 0.29 0.08 78.38
Ivan Provorov 1.16 0.43 72.96
Robert Hagg 1.04 0.39 72.73
Travis Sanheim 0.36 0.14 72
Jori Lehtera 0.26 0.14 65
Jakub Voracek 0.7 0.4 63.64
Claude Giroux 0.68 0.41 62.39
Radko Gudas 0.37 0.23 61.67
Sean Couturier 0.69 0.43 61.61
Travis Konecny 0.3 0.25 54.55
Wayne Simmonds 0.46 0.31 53.73
Scott Laughton 0.47 0.41 53.41
Michael Raffl 0.47 0.43 52.22
Taylor Leier 0.47 0.44 51.65
Dale Weise 0.4 0.41 49.38
Jordan Weal 0.4 0.47 45.98
Shayne Gostisbehere 0.41 0.78 34.45
Brandon Manning 0.31 0.83 27.19
from Corsica.hockey

Nine times out of ten with these stats, I’m observing a pretty dominating performance from the Flyers, not the Wild. They drove play at a fairly solid rate and even won the corsi battle after adjusting for score and venue. The much-maligned pairing of Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg was excellent in this game by the metrics. Though I do think the pairing is still average at best, I hope this game serves as a building block for the two young defensemen and this can be a sign of things to come.

Yes, Valtteri Filppula lead the team in xGF%, and Jori Lehtera was not too far behind in fifth, but taking a look at their 5v5 TOI, which was 9:42 and 7:43 respectively, this doesn’t exactly scream they’re good now.

The middle six still needs work, even with the move to put Jordan Weal at center. I thought Weal had a solid game but when Dale Weise is on your wing along with a clearly hampered-by-injuries Wayne Simmonds, the play driving prowess of Weal goes for naught most of the time.

Flyers raw CF%: 61.25

Flyers adjusted CF%: 59.01

Despite trailing for all but 12 seconds of this game, the Flyers adjusted CF% only knocks off a little over two percentage points. Once again, this team played fairly well and probably deserved a win, but Devan Dubnyk and the ferocious stick checking from the Wild were just too much.

So the Flyers dominated possession and still lost. Where did they go wrong? Look no further than the trusty heatmap:

See all that blue at the point? That’s a no-no

Yes this looks like the Flyers had a good amount of shot attempts from the slot as well, but for the majority of this game the only dark blue spot was right there on the point. Even worse is that IT WAS ONLY THE ONE SIDE OF THE POINT. Going to point shots is bad enough when struggling to create offense, but it’s even worse when most of those attempts were without screens in front of Dubnyk, and from only one side. As soon as the Flyers entered the zone you could predict the entire sequence most of the time before it happened.

A key example of this was in the second period, when Radko Gudas received a perfect pass at the top of the point following a rush up-ice, and had plenty of room to skate in and make it at least a little more difficult for the Wild goaltender. Instead, he takes a unscreened one timer from the point that Dubnyk calmly corralled and stopped play.

Five Takeaways

1. Can the Minnesota (anything but) Wild be banned from the NHL?

There will be no fancy stat rant in this at all, I just want to talk about how sorry I feel for Minnesota Wild fans. Now yes, I get that statement probably makes no sense, but how in the world do their fans put up with that for 82 games? Having only been born in 1995, the trap game of the 90’s to early 2000’s Devils do not serve as a memory for me — but after seeing the Wild play hockey back to back games I THINK I GET IT. That is some of the most boring, uneventful, just flat out horrible to watch hockey I have seen. If only it didn’t work so damn well for them...

2. EVERYBODY IT’S ON. SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS (from the point)

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece on how the Flyers shot selection at 5v5 had definitely improved from last year at least in October. The past two games against Minnesota have shown the exact opposite, with Minnesota clogging the slot area and blocking seemingly every cross-ice pass the Flyers attempted. It’s great work by Minnesota, and a horrible job of adjusting by Philadelphia.

This team is taking way too many point shots yet again. Is part of that due to solid checking by Minnesota in the slot area? Absolutely. But the Flyers seem extremely hesitant to go back to the slot if it at first does not succeed. There needs to be an adjustment made to find new ways to get the puck in high danger scoring areas if they want their 5v5 scoring to be a real threat.

3. Dale Weise needs to be off this team

Weise has spent just a little over a year as a Philadelphia Flyer. In his 78 games in orange and black, he has scored 10 goals and assisted on eight for 18 points. So far this season he has three points in 14 games. I understand his role is not to score goals and that will never be his role, but I struggle to find anything this guy does well.

I have a hard time believing that almost anyone we have playing on the Phantoms right now could be any worse than what Weise has been in his short time as a Flyer.

4. Brian Elliott kept them in it

As the Flyers offense was stymied all night long, Elliott managed to keep them within reach until he was pulled for the extra attacker at the end. The Flyers’ netminder didn’t face a whole lot of shots, but when he did they seemed to be prime scoring chances for the Wild, and Elliott was up to the challenge. Devan Dubnyk was the better goalie tonight, but his opponent had himself a pretty solid night as well.

5. It might just be time to split the first and fourth lines

I understand this is going to be an extremely unpopular take, and it’s not even one I like making. The top line of Giroux - Couturier - Voracek has been easily the biggest positive from the season so far and I don’t want to see it go. However, if the middle six continues to be a dumpster fire in possession metrics and on the scoresheet, a change might need to be made.

Couturier could stay the number one center and still be productive without Giroux on his wing, plus with Giroux facing possibly weaker competition on the “2nd line”, it might be the right move for Dave Hakstol. Ideally the Flyers center core would look like this when Nolan Patrick returns from injury.

  1. Couturier
  2. Giroux
  3. Patrick
  4. Laughton

That’s an obvious upgrade from the current state of Couturier, Weal, Filppula, Laughton.

Do I think this will happen soon? Probably not. I feel like the coaching staff will wait until Patrick has played a few games, and see how the middle six looks with him back in the lineup. If the struggles continue even with Patrick back in the mix, the center lineup above could very well be on the way.

Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Corsica.hockey