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The Two O’Clock Number: Minus-11

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Things are good right now, but there’s still obvious work that needs to be done.

“Look, we knew we were going to have to carry this team, but this is getting ridiculous.”
Kate Frese / SBNation

Minus-11 — the Flyers’ goal differential at 5-on-5 since December 23 (the day on which Dave Hakstol first put Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov on the top pairing together) in the 836:39 of ice time in which at least one of Gostisbehere or Provorov has been off the ice.

Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick’s excellent Line Stats tool, we can take a high-level look at how much the puck is going into each respective net based on who’s manning the blue line for the Flyers at a given time:

Flyers 5-on-5 Goal Differential By On-Ice Defensemen (Since 12/23)

On-Ice Defensemen Ice Time (minutes) Goals For Goals Against Differential Differential Per 60
On-Ice Defensemen Ice Time (minutes) Goals For Goals Against Differential Differential Per 60
Gostisbehere AND Provorov 369.77 20 8 12 1.95
Gostisbehere, No Provorov 42.17 2 0 2 2.85
Provorov, No Gostisbehere 79.92 2 6 -4 -3
Neither 715.57 23 32 -9 -0.75
Totals 1207.43 47 46 1 0.05
Totals (Excluding 53 + 9) 837.66 27 38 -11 -0.79

(Would you have guessed that the Flyers are only plus-1 at 5-on-5 in their last 25 games? They’re plus-12 across all non-shootout game states. Something to keep an eye on for another time. Anyways...)

In any ice time where both of the Flyers’ two most talented defensemen have been on the ice, the Flyers have simply thrashed other teams. They’ve outscored opponents 20-8 during the 370 minutes with both Provorov and Gostisbehere on the ice — good for a thoroughly dominant per-60 minute goal differential of 1.95.

In any other situation, though? Things have been tougher. The Flyers have been outscored 38-27 in those 838 5-on-5 minutes, which would be a goal differential of minus-0.79 goals per 60. For context, that’s roughly equal to the Buffalo Sabres’ minus-0.80 5-on-5 goal differential per-60 this season. (They’re bad.)

Now, “team performs better with best players on the ice than it does with worst players” is not exactly a groundbreaking revelation. And the Flyers have gone 16-6-3 during the stretch described above, so to some, pointing this out may feel like nitpicking.

But at the same time, that’s kind of the point. Barring a catastrophe, this is going to be a playoff team — their chances to make the postseason are currently at or above 90 percent by pretty much every model you can find. And even looking beyond the conventional hockey wisdom of “once you’re in the playoffs, you’ve got a chance”, the Flyers are currently within legitimate striking distance of the top spot in their division.

Teams that could feasibly win their division are teams that should be looking at every area it can shore up, because those are the teams that could actually do something. Those teams are worth nitpicking. And right now, this is a team worth nitpicking. The Flyers have rallied from the fringe of the playoff race to the fringe of a division title despite getting less-than-nothing out of two-thirds of their defensemen. Who knows what their ceiling is if they can upgrade the bottom end of their defense?

If only they had someone readily available to them who could be capable of doing that.

Go Flyers.