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Ivan Provorov could be turning the corner

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The Flyers prized defenseman has picked up his play in the month of January.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Early on this season, it was fair to say Ivan Provorov was having a rough go around, and was not the Flyers best defenseman. His underlying numbers were mediocre to below-average, and he wasn’t producing at his scoring pace from last season. Since the new year, however, his underlying numbers are improving, and the points are slowly but surely coming for the 22 year old blueliner.

The Turnaround

Since their New Year’s Day meeting with the Nashville Predators, Provorov has posted a 51.48 Corsi percentage, in a season in which his Corsi is at a meager 48.83 - which would be a career low. Provorov has never been a metrics dynamo, with his Corsi in his rookie season and sophomore season coming in at 49.23 and 49.37. Although it’s not as if Ivan Provorov has been a play driving master in his first two seasons, there has been a bit of a drop off this season. And although there seems to be a viable reason for that — which will be mentioned later on — seeing Provorov consistently drive play is something expected of him with his skillset.

Much of the concern with Provorov stems from his large number of turnovers this season. Giveaways may not be a perfect or even valuable stat by any means, but in this case it appears to signify the turnaround for the Russian defenseman. Over his past 13 games, Provorov has only committed four giveaways. This is an unbelievably stark contrast from the 26 giveaways in his first 34 games. In his first two seasons, Provorov had 64 and 71 giveaways respectively, so if this pace continues (30 giveaways in 47 games), he’d post by far the lowest giveaway number of his career at around 52. So while we can debate the importance of giveaways, or how they’re tracked, it’s clear that Provorov is playing a more sound game of late.

Ivan Provorov is playing better hockey by the eye test as well. In the beginning of the season, he appeared to be overthinking the game instead of letting his natural talent and abilities shine through. Lately, he’s amended those issues and looked like the number one defenseman that we all expected heading into this season. To go along with his solid metrics, Provorov has five points in his past nine games, including a three game point streak that he’ll look to continue tomorrow vs. Montreal. It may be ironic, but the bye week could be coming at the worst time for Provorov, who seems to be finding his rhythm.

Usage a Major Factor

Not to be overlooked, Provorov’s usage has seen a relatively major increase this season. Our very own Jake Fahringer covered this in a feature earlier in the season, but it’s worth mentioning again. Provorov’s offensive zone start percentage in his rookie and sophomore seasons were 45.35 and 48.35 percent respectively. This season, Provorov has seen his OZS percentage decrease to 41.70 percent, Considering this, the fact his Corsi percentage has only dipped around one percent is pretty remarkable.

To go along with a heavy dosage of defensive zone starts, Provorov is also averaging the most minutes of his NHL career so far. He’s averaging just about 25 minutes a game at 24:56, which puts him 12th in the league in average time on ice. Some of the big names he’s ahead of? Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Giordano, Ryan Ellis, and Alex Pietrangelo. Provorov is being used like one of the best defenseman in the league, and he’s only 22 years old. So the fact he’s still experiencing some growing pains is of course frustrating, but maybe not surprising.

In regards to his point totals, it’s also extremely important to understand that Provorov’s PDO is currently the lowest of his career so far. His .970 PDO, compared to his .983 and 1.012 in his first two seasons could very well signify that he’s had a good amount of bad luck as well. While I don’t believe it can all be chalked up to poor luck — as he was clearly struggling for the majority of the early portions of the season — it’s certainly a factor that can’t be overlooked.

Quality Chances are Coming

Something that Provorov has improved upon this season, however, is the number of quality chances he’s generating. In his first two seasons, Provorov had a 47.42 and 47.96 scoring chances-for percentage, this season, he’s all the way up at an even 50 percent. An even more drastic change comes with his high danger chances-for percentage, coming from 47.80 and 48.66 percent the last two years, to this year with a 50.65 percent. The fact he’s been able to do this even with his increase in defensive zone starts, makes it all the more impressive.

Also, Provorov’s threat percentage from Micah Blake McCurdy’s hockeyviz model has seen an increase over the past two seasons offensively. In his rookie year, his threat percentage offensively was a weak minus 16 percent, and in his sophomore year it only increased to a minus 10 percent. Both years, the Flyers were getting higher quality chances with Provorov off the ice, rather than on it. This season however, the Flyers are an average threat level team with Provorov on the ice, and a minus three percent with him off the ice. So while there have been some visible flaws to Provorov’s game this season, the amount of high percentage plays he’s generating is definitely not one of them.

Conclusion

Ivan Provorov has had a frustrating season to say the very least. He’s shown flashes of being that number one defenseman that we know he can be, but he’s also gone through some growing pains that come with playing this much at such a young age. While his start to the season certainly wasn’t living up to expectations, in the past nine games he’s appeared to have turned the corner. Now, he just needs to continue to put these kind of performances together consistently, and build upon them. With the chemistry we’ve seen between him and Travis Sanheim - who I believe also deserves credit for Provorov’s turnaround - I do not see any reason why Provy does not have a stellar end to his season.

All stats are at 5-on-5, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and hockeyviz.