Uneven Strength

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageThere are plenty of legitimate reasons that the Philadelphia Flyers are mired in a season-long slump. All the hype over the winter has devolved into anger over a last place team just points ahead of Florida for the worst record in the sport. What went wrong? How did a supposedly championship caliber team fall from grace so quickly? What is the problem with Claude Giroux and the other former impact players at forward? The answer is simple.

The Flyers are one of the worst teams in hockey at even-strength. Their inability to score an ES goal last night once again proved critical, as the team scored their only goal on the powerplay and succumbed to the Penguins, 2-1 in overtime.

As a team, the Flyers are right in the middle of the pack in goals-per-game (17th). But, they sit fifth-from-last in five-on-five goals for/against ratio. Their powerplay and penalty kill is efficient, with both sitting at seventh in the league. In fact, the Flyers are third in the league in powerplay goals with 28. But, at even strength, the Flyers sit a disastrous 27th in the league.

As any hockey fan knows, a team is going to spend a vast majority of the game at even strength. Most teams will struggle shorthanded and prosper with the powerplay. But, it is the teams that can dominate the play during five-on-five that will ultimately succeed. The Flyers, to this point, have shown an inability to perform when at even strength. Their two best players at the moment, Giroux and Jakub Voracek, have 23 goals combined. 13 of those goals have come on the powerplay. Following his goal with the extra-man last night, Giroux currently has notched 50% of his tallies with the extra-attacker. For Voracek, that number is a staggering 62% (eight out of his 13 goals).

The same can be said for the role-players on the Flyers. Wayne Simmonds (50%), Kimmo Timonen (200%), Brayden Schenn (33%), Danny Briere (40%), Simon Gagne (200%), and Kurtis Foster (100%) all have at had at least one-third of their goals come on the powerplay. The only player on the roster that has a positive even-strength scoring percentage is Matt Read, who has seven goals this season with six coming at even-strength.

Until Giroux, Voracek, and the rest of the expected offensive impact performers improve their play at even strength, Philadelphia will continue to put up inconsistent numbers. A hockey team can thrive because of their powerplay. But, they can also die without a delicate balance. Peter Laviolette will have to return to the drawing board as the Flyers get set for tomorrow’s matchup with the New York Rangers.

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