Crossing the Finish Line
It’s been pretty clear for a few weeks that the Philadelphia Flyers were not going to be participating in the 2017 NHL playoffs. They were only technically eliminated in the final stretch of games, but it’s been mission impossible for several weeks.
Regardless of playoff chances, there were still games to play out. The biggest source of intrigue in these games would then be player evaluations. Can Giroux show signs of improvement on a miserable (possibly injury-affected) season? Can Ghost get some of his mojo back? How did “newcomers” Weal and Filppula do?
Forwards Finishing Strong
Looking at the stats, a few things jump out. First thing, clearly the hot finishers are Weal, Couturier, and Weise.
In these final 6 weeks, 75% of the team’s top scorers come from the Weise-Couturier-Schenn line. This is mostly due to the play of Sean Couturier. After excelling all season in “advanced” stats (ie, shot metrics), the points are finally catching up. He had 17 points and was +18 over the final 20 games since March 1. Couturier’s final plus-minus is +12, far head of the team’s next-best full-time forward (Read, +3).
The other big positive to the end of the season is the play of Jordan Weal. Quite simply, the guy is doing everything in his power to impress. His 5v5 scoring rate over this period is third only to Couturier and Weise, his relative Corsi is second only to Couturier, and he led the team in individual scoring chances. If he doesn’t earn a new contract with the Flyers after that, there was truly nothing he could’ve done.
Lastly, there was the late season outburst of Dale Weise. His final score line of 8 goals in 64 games this year is a disappointment, although 6 of those 8 goals came in the final stretch of the season. It might indicate better things next year, but it would be a mistake to conclude this is the real Weise.
Forwards Who Just Want it to End
On the negative side, Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek really fell off at the end of the season. They were the team’s two best offensive forces for most of the first half of the season, but both their individual production and on-ice shot metrics were terrible in this final stretch. They’ve simply been unproductive, although Konecny was getting some individual chances despite some 4th line duty with offensive black-holes Bellemare and VandeVelde. I’d say this is mostly good players hitting a bad stretch. It happens, particularly for a 20-year old in his first NHL season.
The other story of players’ whose numbers are simply bad is the newly acquired Valtteri Filppula (when Bellemare and VandeVelde have terrible numbers, it’s old news). This is a topic for a full discussion, but for now I’ll just point out that he is among the worst Flyers in all 4 statistical categories examined here. That is, how do you say, not good.
Lastly, we can look towards Claude Giroux. Giroux is having a dreadful year at 5v5, but some of that may attributable to his offseason surgery. It would’ve been evidence for that theory had his effectiveness ticked up towards the end of the season. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. His possession was okay, as it has been all season. His chance creation and point production, however, remained poor. His season performance at everything other than the power play will be lousy start to finish, and we’ll have to wait and see for a bounce-back effort next fall.
The Defense Makes Closing Arguments
There’s not as much as to pull from the closing defensive numbers, although the excellence of Radko Gudas stands out. Gudas had fantastic shot metrics last season, but it was fair to ask if that was a fluke. He’s basically done it again this year, and these numbers show a particularly strong closing argument.
Another strong closing argument was made by Michael Del Zotto. Given that this nonetheless earned him a healthy scratch in one of the final games of the season, things aren’t looking good for his future in Philly. The Flyers will likely let him walk this summer, mainly due to injuries and inconsistency.
Next we come to Ghost. I wrote about him at length last week, and how his “sophomore slump” isn’t what it may appear. As measured by shots and chances at 5v5, he was actually slumping a little bit at the end of the season compared to earlier in the year. This was happening at the same time he scored 8 points in the final 8 games of the season. Ghost is still a dynamic player, but he’s not necessarily a man for all occasions. For him, just producing on special teams, or at 4v4 or 3v3 may be enough.
Finally, there’s the awkward pair of Provorov and MacDonald. In this final stretch of the season, young Ivan led the team in total ice time (that didn’t take long). This in-season growth, however, didn’t change the fact that this pair continues to get killed on the shot counter. Provorov appeared to the eye to be a little more aggressive in the final games of the year, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come next year, when he is hopefully free of the MacDonald anchor as well.
These numbers are a snapshot of 25% of the season, and must be taken with an extra grain of salt considering the context of the Flyers place in the standings. Nonetheless, I would still take away a few points from the numbers:
- Weal did everything humanly possible to show he belongs with the chance he was given
- Filppula isn’t adding anything, as measured on his stat-sheet anyway
- Voracek didn’t look like himself down the stretch
- The era of Provorov as #1 Flyers defenseman may already be here, but his numbers with MacDonald remain soft
- Ghost’s late season points streak wasn’t part of some broad improvement in his game compared to earlier in the season
Photo Source: Bob Fina, InsideHockey.com