Sometimes in hockey it comes down to the bounces. A player can take all the right steps to score a goal and the puck just takes a funny hop. It happens to every player on every team that has ever played hockey, but some years a player gets all the bounces and some years they don’t. An individual’s shooting percentage is an easy way to help decipher which players were lucky or unlucky in a particular season, but there are a few ways to take a deeper look to see who on the Philadelphia Flyers can say they really had an unlucky 2018-19.
The first step beyond just shooting percentage is by looking at that player’s individual Corsi shooting percentage. It’s not a common statistic, but it’s useful and it’s pretty easy to understand: instead of just calculating what percentage of a player’s shots on goal went in this calculates what percentage of a player’s shot attempts (shots on goal, missed shots, shots that were blocked) went for goals. Since the expectations of a forward’s shot going in and a defenseman’s shot going in aren’t exactly the same, separating the two will make it easier to see which players at each position may have gotten a few bounces this past season. Let’s take a look at the forwards first:
Forwards’ Individual Corsi Shooting Percentage 2018-19
|James van Riemsdyk||27||262||10.31|
A few things jump out. First of all, James van Riemsdyk’s 10.31 individual corsi shooting percentage helps to explain how his season played out. The fact he managed to accumulate 27 goals in just 66 contests after he was injured in the second game of the season and missed over a month of action is pretty remarkable. Although it’s easy to think if JVR plays another 15-16 games he easily breaks the 30-goal plateau next season this stat illustrates how it may not go that smoothly for the power forward. Out of the 76 25-goal scorers this past season he was one of nine that reached the goal mark with under 300 individual shot attempts and his 10.31 individual Corsi shooting percentage was 13th among the group. Add this to the fact a few of his key 5-on-5 rate stats (shots, individual expected goals for, and individual shot attempts per 60) were a little below how he does annually and it’s easy to see how JVR might end up with around the same number of goals despite an increase in average ice time and games played.
As for the other big names, no other player had that unique of a season: Sean Couturier’s individual Corsi shooting percentage this season is comparable to his percentage from last year (the two years he’s been a top-line center), Travis Konecny scored 24 goals in each of the last two seasons and only had six more individual shot attempts than last season, and the tandem of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek always have rather low individual Corsi shooting percentages. In fact, Voracek’s 5.22 individual corsi shooting percentage in all situations this year is his highest for a single season since he potted 22 tallies on 216 shot attempts for 10.19 percent in 2013.
Another takeaway is Justin Bailey was the Flyers’ forward who threw the most pucks towards the net last season to not register a single goal. He, Tyrell Goulbourne, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel were three of 84 forwards to play in the 2018-19 regular season without a goal to their credit. Of those 84 forwards, Bailey’s 14 individual shot attempts was the 26th-most so not really too unlucky. For those who are curious, Tobias Rieder (who was definitely the reason why the Edmonton Oilers sucked last season) had the most amount of shot attempts by a forward without a goal last season with 161.
With the forwards out of the way, here are how the defensemen fared this past season:
Defenders’ Individual Corsi Shooting Percentage 2018-19
A lot of things worth pointing out here, but let’s look at the three d-men who scored seven or more goals last season in Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. They were the only three members of the Orange and Black to play 1,500 minutes (all situations) in 2018-19 and were three of 79 blue liners across the NHL to hit the mark. Provorov finished tied for 45th with seven goals on his 39th-ranked 294 individual shot attempts meaning 2.38 percent of his shot attempts this season went in the net. Despite playing nearly 80 more minutes overall this season, Provorov posted 145 shots on goal (203 in 2017-18), nearly 100 more individual shot attempts (393 in 2017-18), and 43 more individual unblocked shot attempts (263 in 2017-18 to 190 this year) which could be part of the reason why his numbers dipped this campaign.
It also doesn’t help that his shooting percentage in all situations last season was 8.37. The league average shooting percentage is higher than 8.37, but most defensemen around the NHL who see the ice a good amount each night don’t consistently shoot that high. Out of the 163 instances where a d-man played 1,500 minutes or more in all situations over the last two seasons, only eight posted shooting percentages higher than 8.37 and Morgan Rielly was the only other rearguard to post such a high shooting percentage on 200 or more shots (he scored 20 goals on 223 shots on goal in 2018-19). Obviously Provorov is a gifted d-man, but to pot that many goals as a blue liner a lot of things have to go right for him or they need to be in a situation where they are relied upon as a key piece in the team’s offensive structure (Brent Burns’ in San Jose). There’s no reason Provorov’s ice time should take a huge hit (unless he still isn’t signed) and he’s due to bounce back this season, which means it shouldn’t be out of the question for Provorov to notch ten goals in 2019-20 without me circling around in a year to drop in some “well actually” stats for next year’s version of this article.
Gostisbehere’s season is summed up pretty well in terms of shooting stats. He played 78 games again to tie his most games in a season from last year, but he played 140 less minutes and saw some substantial drops in key categories. Keeping in mind he played in 64 games his rookie season back in 2015-16 and then played in 76 games in 2016-17, in all situations this past season Gostisbehere had 180 shots on goal (second-lowest to 152 rookie season), 375 individual shot attempts (only other time under 445 was 341 during rookie season), 246 unblocked shot attempts (only other time under 300 was 231 during rookie season), and an individual expected goals for total of 9.1 (lowest of career compared to 9.9 rookie season and other two seasons were 11.14 or better).
A major facet of the game where Gostisbehere struggled last season, and why there was a drop in his production, was running the power play. He saw 10:13 less of power play time this season compared to 2017-18 and saw drops in his power-play goals (seven in 2017-18 to four in 2018-19), assists (26 to 10), shots (86 to 65) and unblocked shot attempts (120 to 86). A total of 10:13 isn’t the reason for all those drops, but these differences would definitely be less if given that extra ten minutes and he isn’t playing an entire season on a sore knee.
Sanheim was the only other Flyer to be one of the 35 d-men in the NHL to put the puck past the goal line nine times last season and log 1,500 minutes or more. Out of those 35 defensemen, Sanheim’s 242 shot attempts were the second-fewest attempts needed for nine goals to T.J. Brodie’s nine on 233 shot attempts and his 6.38 individual expected goals for was the third-lowest out of the aforementioned group. Based on those two stats alone it’d be safe to say expect a drop in Sanheim’s production for next season, but his increase in playing time may cancel out whatever negative results should come from his shooting percentage regressing to the mean. Sanheim finished 61st among NHL defensemen last season, but the split between his average ice time of 16:07 in the Flyers’ first 31 games and his average ice time of 21:39 over the last 51 games after Rick Wilson came in to say “maybe you should play the good player” back in December show that there is still a way Sanheim can register more ice time in a season. If his 19:34 average time on ice for the whole season increases to 21 minutes a night (75 blue liners hit this mark last season) Sanheim will most likely see an increase to his shot, shot attempt, and individual expected goals for totals while still netting around nine or ten goals.
As for unlucky one can’t do much better than Andrew MacDonald has for the last 11 months. After he was injured in training camp, MacDonald failed to score once in (ironically) 47 games and on 103 shot attempts in all situations. He ended up being one of six d-men to play 750 minutes in all situations last season to end up not scoring a single goal, as he played 770:31 in his final season as a Flyer. The trio of Niklas Hjalmarsson (zero goals on 109 shot attempts in 1,615:16 of ice time), Victor Mete (zero goals on 164 shot attempts in 1,261:52 of ice time), and Jacob Larsson (zero goals on 126 shot attempts in 838:37 of ice time) may have a stronger case for unluckiest shooting season from the point, but MacDonald could have used a few more on-ice breaks before leaving for Calgary.
Individual Corsi shooting percentage is one way to paint a better picture of lucky or unlucky shooting percentages, but let’s dig even deeper. We just looked at the percentage of ALL shot attempts going in at any point in the game, so now let’s look at unblocked shot attempts at 5-on-5. A pretty good argument can be made that having a shot blocked shouldn’t count as a positive for the attacking team, so by looking at only each player’s unblocked shot attempt totals it should help to paint a better picture of players who were unlucky on legitimate chances. Looking at 5-on-5 totals also helps to level the playing field for players who don’t see the ice at all on the power play. Here’s how Flyers’ forwards fared:
Forwards’ 5-on-5 Individual Fenwick Shooting Percentage 2018-19
|James van Riemsdyk||14||141||9.93|
Defenders’ 5-on-5 Individual Fenwick Shooting Percentage 2018-19
Looking at these totals no Flyer is due for a regression. Couturier’s conversion rate of ten percent for 21 goals on 210 total unblocked shot attempts sounds like it’s too high to replicate, but when looking at the other individual Fenwick for attempt totals and conversion rates there’s nothing to worry about. His 21 goals placed him tied for 22nd out of 131 forwards who played 1,000 5-on-5 minutes last season with eight of the forwards who scored more 5-on-5 goals than Couturier also posting an individual Fenwick for shooting percentage of over ten percent. It also doesn’t hurt that he increased his individual 5-on-5 shot count from 136 to 152, shot attempt total from 241 to 258, and unblocked shot attempts from 188 to 210.
Travis Konecny’s conversion rate of 8.33 on 216 individual unblocked shot attempts doesn’t lean towards progression or regression next season. Out of the 131 forwards that played at least 1,000 5-on-5 minutes last season Konecny was one of 34 with 216 individual fenwick for. With 17 of those 34 skaters posting over Konecny’s total of 18 5-on-5 goals, 13 posting 17 goals or less, and four players with exactly 18 markers it’s hard to argue with this stat that Konecny was unlucky last season.
When we dig a little deeper, however, it’s easy to see how Konecny had an unfortunate shooting season. It’s hard to say that about a player with his second straight 24-goal season, but considering he was inches away from at least a 25-goal season if not a 30-goal season it’s unfortunate. That sounds like an insane statement, but Konecny hit some iron last year and he consistently ‘just missed’ more than any other player for Philly.
Flyers’ Posts Hit in 2018-19
|Player||Unblocked Shots||Posts Hit||% of Unblocked Shots Hitting Iron|
|Player||Unblocked Shots||Posts Hit||% of Unblocked Shots Hitting Iron|
|James van Riemsdyk||206||5||2.43|
The fact that there are only two other Flyers who even hit the post five times illustrates just how ill-fated Konecny’s shooting was this season. Another way would be to look at the bounces the trio of Voracek, Giroux, and Couturier received in 2018-19. These three were the only members of the Orange and Black to provide more individual Fenwick for at 5-on-5 than Konecny last season and they combined to hit the post 12 times on 920 unblocked shot attempts to have 1.3 percent (over two percent less than Konecny’s percentage) of their unblocked shot attempts hit the post.
All Players Who Hit Nine or More Posts in 2018-19
It takes a lot of effort to hit the post nine times during the season. Konecny was one of just 21 post-punchers across the entire NHL last year, but not one of the 12 skaters who racked up ten or more shots off the iron. Even though he didn’t reach the double-digit plateau Konecny did manage to have the seventh-highest percentage out of these 21 players to have their unblocked shot attempts strike the frame of the cage.
Every season is a new season. Whatever line, linemates, role, and ice time a player has may be the same year in and year out, but there are seasons where a player catches the breaks and years they don’t. If JVR played an additional 15 games this season he most likely breaks 30 goals, but he could play all 82 games in 2019-20 and still post 27 goals simply because his individual Corsi shooting percentage is anticipated to regress. Konecny is expected to spend a good amount of time (if not the entirety) of the next campaign on the top line with the same linemates, so it isn’t hard to picture the winger producing the same chances. Depending on which way the pucks bounce off iron, Konecny may be on his way to his first 30-goal season in the NHL.