Via @DanTheFlyeraFan on twitter
The Flyers are already on the golf course while eight teams are gearing up for round two of the playoffs. It’s clear there’s no chance they could hang with most teams involved. There is, however, one team that looks extremely similar to the Flyers and that is the Ottawa Senators. Every part of their roster is relatively equal to the Flyers, from an underwhelming forward core, to a defense filled with high priced traffic cones, to two solid goalies. So what makes them better than the Flyers?
Well let’s start with the obvious, They’re in different divisions. Ottawa finished 2nd in the Atlantic division with 98 points, while Philly finished 6th in the Metro with 88 points. While the Metro is clearly the tougher division, with four teams finishing above 100 points, the race itself within the separate divisions was closer. Montreal finished with 103 points while 2nd wildcard team Toronto finished with 95. So the compete level within the divisions is similar.
Next, let’s look at the records. Sens finished with a 44-28-10 record while the Flyers finished with a 39-33-10 mark. Their respective home records were, again similar, with the Senators posting a 22-11-8 to the Flyers 25-11-5. The road records is where thing do change a little. Ottawa clearly had the better record 22-17-2, while the Flyers struggled away from the Wells Fargo Center, turning in a pathetic 14-22-5 record. So the records are different, that can’t be the only difference, can it?
How about goal differentials. Fun fact, the Senators are the only team in the playoffs to have a negative goal differential on the season. Scoring goals isn’t something the Flyers are always good at, made clear by their -17 differential (219 GF, 236 GA). surprisingly, the Senators didn’t score as many goals as the Flyers, but kept their differential closer at -2 (212 GF, 214 GA). Okay, so those numbers aren’t as telling as I thought they would be.
Plus/minus is not a real stat, so I’m not going to consider that.
So the stats on paper are both nearly identical, so let’s look at the lineups, starting with the forwards. While the Senators roster may not have the top names that the Flyers do, scoring wise, its almost identical. Both teams top scoring forward, Jake Voracek and Mike Hoffman both finished the season with 61 points. Schenn and Turris each had 55, and Simmonds and Stone finished with 54. The only outlier there is Claude Giroux with 58 points. Outside of the top forward scorers for both teams, the rest of the numbers are different as the Flyers got more scoring from their defense.
Speaking of defense, let’s compare them. Now, the majority of the Senators points from the back end come from Norris Trophy nominee Erik Karlsson. The Flyers don’t have anybody that can match him one-on-one (yet, just you wait). Anyway, Karlsson posted a whopping 71 points, the rest of the defense combined scored 90 points. The Flyers top defensive scorer was sophomore slump-ridden-Gostisbehere with 39 points. the other six d-men scored 105 points together.
Again, the totals are neck and neck, so now it’s goaltending time.
First I wanted to take a minute to commend Craig Anderson for playing through most of the season while his wife battled cancer. He only took a prolonged break from early December to early February, still managing to play in forty games. For him to post a 2.28 GAA and .926 SV% with 5 shutouts while having his wife’s illness on his mind is truly incredible and inspiring. All of us at Philly is Flyer wish the Anderson family the best as she continues to battle. Stay strong Nicholle.
Back to the comparisons. Both teams have two capable goalies,-a top starter and a solid backup. This is probably the defining stat between the teams in the 2016-17 season. Anderson’s numbers 2.28 GAA and a .926 SV% and Condon’s numbers 2.50 GAA and a .914 SV% easily top both Flyer netminders (Mason 2.66 GAA/.908 SV%)(Neuvirth 2.82 GAA/.891 SV%). Ottawa rolled two goalies that split starts almost right down the middle (40 for Anderson and 38 for Condon). both posted 5 shutouts and both kept their total goals against under 100 on the season (92 for Anderson/96 for Condon). The Flyers failed miserably in the goalie column this season. Mason and Neuvirth both started the season entrenched in a battle for the number one roll, a roll that Mason won by default due to Neuvirth’s injury. Mase didn’t find his form until it was too late.
The caliber of talent on both teams by name favors the Flyers, but the Senators proved that they can hang with the big dogs without a big name outside of Karlsson. The Flyers have a semi deep roster, yet nobody could seem to get hot at the same time. Chemistry and consistency were major issues and Captain Claude’s disappearance didn’t help things in Philly.
There was no one stat that favored the Senators highly over the Flyers. but a combination of weak goaltending, an awful road record, a tougher division, and a lack of consistent goal scoring doomed the Flyers. So while the rosters as about as identical as they can be, it’s the level of play from said rosters that makes the difference.
(The biggest difference is the Senators don’t have Dave Hakstol as coach)
With any luck Gostisbehere will re-find his form and become the next Erik Karlsson. Hopefully whoever fills Mason’s spot will be a solid addition. Only time will tell of the Flyers are a playoff team in 2017-18. Maybe they should take a page or two from the Ottawa Senators, because they are clearly doing something right.
Photo cred via CSN.com