Despite the result of the past few games, one the of the Flyers’ key strengths has been their top two lines and how they have been able to dominate play at 5-on-5. In nearly every game they have played so far, the Kevin Hayes and Sean Couturier lines have been able to drive play fantastically well, create high danger scoring opportunities in and around the slot, and eye test wise, just simply look fantastic out there.
However, this cannot be said of the bottom six.
This is not to say that I at all blame them for how the Flyers played on this Canadian road trip. Truly, their only poor game came in Calgary. Other than that, the Flyers have been even or better than their opposition. This was especially true in Edmonton, where the Flyers, from a metric standpoint, dominated play but still lost (as hockey can be sometimes). However, still the bottom six has been a slight source of weakness for this club early on.
Against the Oilers, the Twarynski-Bunnaman-Pitlick line played the second most minutes as a trio at 5-on-5 with 8:58. In those minutes, their Corsi-For was an abysmal 25.00%. The Couturier line ended up with 70.37 CF% and the Hayes line with 60.00 CF%. This is not to directly compare and correlate them, as obviously the differences in skill are wide.
However, for a line to do that poorly is alarming. Twarynski, Bunnaman, and Pitlick all have sub 50.00% Corsi-For totals on the season, so this is not an anomaly either. This isn’t to say that I expect them to be amazingly Corsi positive, but close to even would be optimal instead of at the 42.55% average they are currently.
This was after the team made an improvement to the line by swapping Connor Bunnaman back in from the now infamous Chris Stewart. Stewart, in his one game, played 9:12 at 5-on-5 an managed a Corsi-For of 35.71%. That’s quite suboptimal, though it wasn’t as if we expected anything better from Stewart. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Michael Raffl, who has played spectacularly early on. He’s been the main driving force on his line. Against the Oilers, though Raffl’s line was Corsi negative, Raffl himself drove play very well (73.91 CF%).
Overall, the bottom six have played to an average standard at best to poor in some cases. In some cases, this can be due to their matchup. For example, against the Devils, the Flyers swapped the matchup against the Hischier line so that the Hayes line would face lesser competition and dominate, thusly explaining the particularly poor statistics that game. However, despite this, in some cases the bottom six are just getting buried. It’s noticeable from an eye test perspective as well.
While Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski have been serviceable players at best, I find it hard to imagine that they would be performing any better than the likes of Joel Farabee (who is crushing it with the Phantoms), Nicholas Aube-Kubel, or German Rubtsov. At the very least, one of those guys or Phil Myers should absolutely be up in place of Chris Stewart (not that we’ve talked about it that much).
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick