While the world may seem like it’s on fire after the Flyers’ 7-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, it’s really not —just yet.
The Flyers find themselves at 5-5-1, earning 11 points in as many games and sitting 12th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. But they are in the midst of a pack of four teams around the 11-12 points range, within striking distance of the teams ahead of them, and it took a 7-1 loss to finally drop the Flyers into the negative goal differential (-2).
That said, things are certainly far from perfect and while they’ve done some nice things so far this season (53.6% Corsi For; 85.29% penalty kill; 23.81% power play), there’s still plenty to get this team from hovering around the .500 mark to above and beyond. Here are a few numbers they’re going to need to turn around if they’re going to do so.
Save percentage: .887%
Who could have possibly foreseen a 21-year-old goaltender struggling after just 49 professional hockey games? Even though we all hoped (and prayed) that Carter Hart would be the one young goalie that wouldn’t struggle at some point, it’s happening.
And that’s okay, and in fact our very own Kelly Hinkle brought in an expert to talk about Carter and his early season struggles so far, and it’s by far the best thing you’re going to listen to all day.
On the ice, Hart’s .864 save percentage is well below the league average, and brining down Brian Elliott’s .904 that isn’t even up to the league average thus far (.907). So even as Elliott has propelled the Flyers to wins (see Golden Knights and Blackhawks 2.0), he’s also been suspect in equally as many other games (see Blue Jackets, Penguins).
The Flyers simply need to get better goaltending, and it’s up to Hart and Elliott to provide it because we’re damn sure that Alex Lyon ain’t the answer.
While nobody can make the saves for them, what they can do to help out their goalies is to try their best not to treat the puck like a live grenade in their own zone. Flyers turnovers in their own zone have come from all parties —and every line— and have ended up in their own net at an alarming rate, especially lately.
We don’t want to talk goaltending in Philadelphia all the time, but well if the numbers don’t look good and they don’t look visually good either, we’re going to talk about it.
High-danger chances converted against: 13% (17 of 113)
This second stat piggybacks on the first in a certain way, but also helps to point out the defensive issues the Flyers have had early on.
Now let’s preface this by saying that the Flyers’ defense hasn’t been a total dumpster fire in every game, but they’ve at the most been inconsistent game-to-game with a few real clunkers thrown in there (see Penguins).
Every Flyers defender has had his fare share of issues at some point thus far. Shayne Gostisbehere found himself —the good self— in preseason then subsequently lost himself once the real puck dropped. Robert Hagg has been a disaster in just about every facet, and even Ivan Provorov has thrown in a couple head-scratching nights. And that doesn’t even get into whatever in the heck Travis Sanheim has been doing out there.
While the goaltending has let the Flyers down overall, and this stat is indicative of them too, the defense has allowed plenty of high-danger chances and those have been converted by opposing teams at an alarming rate early on.
Opposing teams are scoring on 13% of their high-danger chances on the Flyers this season while the league average sits at just 9%. That’s a massive difference, and highlights that the quality chances the Flyers are giving up are even juicier than the ones they’re getting at the other end.
That’s where the defense aspect comes in, where they’re simply not playing cohesive enough defensively to mitigate some of these golden scoring chances. The pairs need to be better in their own zone, the forwards need to help out, the turnovers need to be limited, and the the goalies need to make more saves.
The Flyers aren’t dead in the water after just 11 games —far from it— but they need to tighten things up in these areas going forward in order marry up with some of the positive things they have been able to do thus far and get rolling.
*All statistics via Hockeyreference.com as of 10/30/2019 before start of play