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The discrepancy in the Flyers’ goaltending at home vs. on the road is staggering

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If you’re trying to come up with an explanation for why the Flyers are just so much better at home than on the road, it might just boil down to this.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at San Jose Sharks Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

With recent shellackings in San Jose and Los Angeles still front of mind, the fact that your Philadelphia Flyers are a significantly, drastically worse team on the road than they are at home is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Entering tonight’s games, the Flyers sit eighth in the NHL in points percentage, having collected 61.3 percent of all possible points available. But if you just isolate for games at home, the Flyers have collected a ridiculous 78.9 percent of all points available — the best of any team in the NHL. You would think that a team that protects its house like that would be sailing along a bit more smoothly than this team is, but that’s not going to be the case when you are 22nd in the league in points percentage on the road, at 45.2 percent, like the Flyers currently are. (Home/road splits here courtesy of nhl dot com.)

Now, of course, “being better at home than on the road” does not make the Flyers special — it is one of the most basic truisms in all of sports that teams are generally better at home than they are elsewhere. This year, for example, NHL teams collect 60.9 percent of available points at home, compared to 51.1 percent on the road. And this split tends to be seen in pretty much every way — even-strength play-driving metrics tend to favor the home team (as of this writing, 52.2 percent of all unadjusted even-strength Expected Goals this season have been collected by home teams), as do power play opportunities, save percentages, and most other numbers you can dig up. Whatever the reasons are — structural, mental, emotional, physical — teams are just better at stuff at home.

But the Flyers seem to be a lot better at stuff at home than they are on the road this year. And that is worth paying close attention to for a team that, if it makes the playoffs, is most likely not going to have home ice in the first round unless it can manage to beat out at least three out of Washington, Pittsburgh, Carolina, or the Islanders in the final standings.

Yet even though the Flyers are clearly playing better at home than on the road, the single biggest driver of the discrepancy between the team’s home performance and its road performance might just be a rather simple one: sometimes you just need a friggin’ save. And the Flyers seem to get that save a lot at home, and they don’t really seem to on the road.

Below is each team in the NHL’s performance in terms of Expected Goals Allowed** vs. Actual Goals Allowed in its games through Tuesday, separated out by home and away. (Data includes all game situations except overtime and when either team has an empty net. The below table is sortable on some devices.)

Goals Saved Above Expectation, Home vs. Away

Team Goals Allowed (Home) Expected Goals Allowed (Home) Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Home) Rank (Home) Goals Allowed (Away) Expected Goals Allowed (Away) Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Away) Rank (Away)
Team Goals Allowed (Home) Expected Goals Allowed (Home) Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Home) Rank (Home) Goals Allowed (Away) Expected Goals Allowed (Away) Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Away) Rank (Away)
DAL 36 49.88 13.88 1 51 46.23 -4.77 17
PHI 33 46.67 13.67 2 73 56.83 -16.17 30
BOS 46 56.29 10.29 3 40 46.97 6.97 5
L.A 43 47.62 4.62 4 75 52.27 -22.73 31
STL 42 46.59 4.59 5 48 56.19 8.19 3
OTT 42 45.41 3.41 6 75 65.42 -9.58 23
VAN 49 51.94 2.94 7 56 54.52 -1.48 13
WPG 57 58.62 1.62 8 50 58.44 8.44 1
BUF 45 44.36 -0.64 9 71 58.92 -12.08 26
CBJ 45 44.21 -0.79 10 49 43.42 -5.58 19
CAR 46 44.84 -1.16 11 57 57.13 0.13 11
ARI 50 48.55 -1.45 12 47 55.27 8.27 2
CHI 57 54.88 -2.12 13 60 58.47 -1.53 14
FLA 60 57.63 -2.37 14 60 45.56 -14.44 28
PIT 46 43.61 -2.39 15 47 38.13 -8.87 21
NYI 47 44.10 -2.90 16 43 49.08 6.08 6
WSH 49 45.66 -3.34 17 62 55.44 -6.56 20
ANA 47 43.40 -3.60 18 64 52.77 -11.23 25
T.B 59 54.59 -4.41 19 45 44.22 -0.78 12
NYR 59 53.75 -5.25 20 60 64.07 4.07 8
MIN 42 35.65 -6.35 21 76 61.42 -14.58 29
TOR 53 46.63 -6.37 22 69 59.90 -9.10 22
COL 53 46.41 -6.59 23 49 56.10 7.10 4
CGY 51 43.91 -7.09 24 61 58.95 -2.05 15
VGK 61 53.67 -7.33 25 55 59.56 4.56 7
N.J 61 51.29 -9.71 26 64 53.12 -10.88 24
S.J 65 54.04 -10.96 27 58 55.18 -2.82 16
DET 66 53.74 -12.26 28 73 60.03 -12.97 27
MTL 57 44.33 -12.67 29 60 61.69 1.69 10
NSH 57 42.28 -14.72 30 52 47.14 -4.86 18
EDM 68 51.82 -16.18 31 52 55.27 3.27 9

You can see there that, at home, only one team (Dallas) has saved more goals above expectation than the Flyers have this year. And if you sort by the rightmost column, you can also see that, on the road, only one team (Los Angeles) has allowed more goals above expectation than the Flyers have this year.

And if we really want to hammer the point home, we can look at straight-up save percentage, which tells us essentially an identical story. At home, only Dallas has a better save percentage than the Flyers; on the road, only Florida has a worse one. The gap between the Flyers’ home and road numbers is far and away the biggest in the league.

Team Save Percentage, Home vs. Away

Team Save % (Home) Rank (Home) Save % (Away) Rank (Away) Home vs. Road Difference
Team Save % (Home) Rank (Home) Save % (Away) Rank (Away) Home vs. Road Difference
PHI 0.9354 2 0.8775 30 0.0579
L.A 0.9175 13 0.8794 29 0.0380
FLA 0.9143 15 0.8770 31 0.0372
PIT 0.9291 4 0.8965 24 0.0326
OTT 0.9262 5 0.8944 25 0.0318
ANA 0.9233 7 0.8939 27 0.0295
DAL 0.9400 1 0.9172 8 0.0228
BUF 0.9180 12 0.8970 23 0.0211
WSH 0.9133 16 0.8998 21 0.0134
VAN 0.9213 8 0.9098 16 0.0115
MIN 0.9123 17 0.9014 19 0.0109
TOR 0.9089 21 0.8997 22 0.0092
DET 0.8981 26 0.8896 28 0.0086
CBJ 0.9209 9 0.9130 13 0.0079
CHI 0.9203 10 0.9171 9 0.0032
S.J 0.8972 27 0.8944 26 0.0028
BOS 0.9300 3 0.9275 2 0.0024
NYR 0.9103 19 0.9094 17 0.0010
STL 0.9247 6 0.9252 5 -0.0005
CGY 0.9116 18 0.9148 11 -0.0032
VGK 0.9079 23 0.9135 12 -0.0057
NSH 0.8939 29 0.9015 18 -0.0077
NYI 0.9168 14 0.9264 4 -0.0096
T.B 0.9047 24 0.9159 10 -0.0112
ARI 0.9195 11 0.9308 1 -0.0113
CAR 0.8996 25 0.9116 15 -0.0121
WPG 0.9082 22 0.9244 6 -0.0161
N.J 0.8845 31 0.9006 20 -0.0162
COL 0.9092 20 0.9271 3 -0.0178
MTL 0.8942 28 0.9128 14 -0.0185
EDM 0.8891 30 0.9190 7 -0.0299

This is not to let the team’s skaters off the hook for their play in road games (or to take away from their play in home games), or suggest that goaltending is the team’s only problem on the road, or anything of the sort. Save percentage and xG models are not perfect barometers, and even if they were, a lot of things go into the scoring (or allowing) of a goal. The Flyers should be looking at all possible problems when it comes to their play on the road, and we could probably spend more words here talking about those too if we wanted to. But the differences in goaltending go so far beyond “teams are better at home” that it’s hard not to single them out.

So, for good measure, let’s single them out a bit more. (Same conditions as above — regulation only, no empty-net situations included.)

Carter Hart and Brian Elliot Splits, Home vs. Away

Measure Carter Hart Brian Elliott
Measure Carter Hart Brian Elliott
Goals Allowed (Home) 19 14
Expected Goals Allowed (Home) 34.45 12.22
Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Home) 15.45 -1.78
Goals Allowed (Away) 37 36
Expected Goals Allowed (Away) 23.42 33.34
Goals Saved vs. Expectation (Away) -13.58 -2.66
Save Percentage (Home) 0.9496 0.8955
Save Percentage (Away) 0.8496 0.8971

Brian Elliott has pretty much been the same goalie at home and on the road this year — slightly “below expectation” in both. But it’s Carter Hart whose splits here are so drastic they’re almost impossible to miss.

Hart has finished each of the 14 home games that he’s started this year, and in those games the Flyers have just one regulation loss (and two shootout losses). He has allowed more than one goal in only five of those 14 games, and more than two goals in only three of them (and of those three, one was the “home” game in Prague). When Carter Hart starts at home, good things tend to happen to the Flyers.

In his 13 road appearances, good things have not tended to happen. Of the 10 starts Hart has made on the road (he’s also relieved Elliott three times, all in eventual losses), Hart has been pulled three times. He hasn’t started and finished a game on the road without allowing at least two goals, and the Flyers haven’t won a road game in regulation this year that he has appeared in (both of his road wins were shootout victories).

Hart is clearly a talented goaltender, and there’s absolutely a degree to which it’s understandable that a 21-year old who doesn’t have a ton of experience with the rigors of an NHL schedule may struggle a bit away from home. And again, we would probably have to do more work to isolate how much of this is on the goalie himself and how much is on the guys in front of him.

And also, for the record: we are talking about two different not-even-15-game-samples both at home and on the road. Goaltending is volatile, and it can both be true that Hart is genuinely playing better at home than he is on the road and that we can probably expect both the excellent home numbers and the not-so-good road numbers to fall a bit closer to expectation in the second half of the season.

But at the end of the day, if you want to figure out how to make the Flyers a better road team, it probably starts with their franchise goaltender.


Data in this piece courtesy of Moneypuck.com unless noted otherwise.

** A brief refresher: “Expected Goals” are the number of goals that one would expect a team to score during the game based on the volume and quality of the shots they take and allow. Each shot has an Expected Goal (xG) value based on the location it was shot from, what type of shot it was, whether it was a rebound, and several other factors. So, in other words, looking at the first table in our post here, based on the kinds of shots the Flyers have allowed defensively this year in all of their home games, you would “expect” them to have allowed approximately 46.67 goals — in other words, somewhere around 46 or 47 goals. Instead, they have allowed 33. For a further explanation on the statistic in general, click here. For more specifics on this particular Expected Goals model (there are a few out there), click here.