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The Two O’Clock Number: 1

The Flyers’ steadiest group of this decade, its top power play unit, has gone ice-cold.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Arizona Coyotes
This was the last time the Flyers scored a power play goal. This picture was taken in 1994.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

1 - the number of goals by which the Flyers have outscored their opponents in their last 15 games with their top power play unit on the ice.

If that sounds bad, that’s because it is bad. Hell, I’m actually kind of impressed that this team has won nearly as many games this season (nine) as it’s lost (10) despite the top power play unit being as ineffectual as it’s been for most of the season. That group has, by and large, been a rock over the last few years, one that’s propped up some pretty mediocre teams, and the fact that it currently isn’t producing should come as a surprise.

To try and quantify just how steady it’s been over the years, I’ve charted below the Flyers’ 15-game rolling goal differential with their top power play unit on the ice dating back to the beginning of the 2013-14 season, using Claude Giroux’s power play ice time as a proxy for the presence of the top power play.

Raw data via Natural Stat Trick

For most of the past five-plus seasons, across 15 games you could typically count on this unit to outscore its opponents by somewhere in the range of six to 10 goals. Occasionally it would drop a little below that or jump a little above it, but you can sort of see a) where this group tends to average out to over time, and b) just how rare it is for them to be well outside of that range that they’ve built in for themselves.

But right now they are comfortably outside of that range. The last time their goal differential across this many games was this low was at the very beginning of the 2016-17 season, and that was largely fueled by an ice-cold stretch across the end of the 2015-16 season (in their last 15 regular-season games in that year, the top unit was actually outscored by one goal). Since they pulled out of that funk, they’ve never had a 15-game goal differential below four until this year.

There have been a lot of instances in the past five or so seasons where the top power play has gone a few games without a goal, and fans and observers would in turn start to fret over just what’s going wrong with them. I pretty much never get fazed by those, because this group has shown over a very large sample size that it’s difficult to keep them bottled down for too long, and that they’re inevitably going to break back out of that slump. (Just like how I’m barely bothering to mention the second power play unit, which has been a mess for just about this whole time and is unsurprisingly also a mess this year.)

That breakout might still happen. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same group of guys, even if there’s been some shuffling of the units in order to try and fix things up. But it’s fair to point out that right now the bottom-line numbers for the top power play look about as bad as they have in years, and we’re at a big enough sample of games that the Flyers may need to stop hoping they’ll find their way out of this funk and start actively looking for ways to do so, because getting that unit working again may be the simplest way for this team to start finding goals (and wins) that it currently isn’t.