Breaking down the Bullies: Low-scoring losses downed the Flyers

Briere

Briere is a potential buyout candidate this offseason… pic c/o bridgetds http://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetds/

With just five games left, the Flyers’ 2013 season has been marred by inconsistency on every inch of the ice. On the surface, it felt particularly frustrating from an offensive standpoint. What appeared on paper to be a roster full of talented, budding forwards was coming up short on a nightly basis for no real reason at all, just one season removed from tormenting its opponents.

Now that the year is coming to a close, the Flyers have suddenly begun to find ways to light the lamp, compiling back to back wins while scoring eleven goals in the process. They look like a team that has no business being in the discussion for a lottery pick. Here’s where it gets weird: as you dig deeper, you begin to find things that make even less sense than the terrible nose-dive this group of forwards seemed to take for no reason at all.

There are only two times this season where the team has played above the .500 mark for a stretch of ten games. The first time came in the middle of February, when they seemed poised to recover from their early season head-scratching losses. After that, the month of March left many dripping with frustration before the current recovery that begin at the end of last month — when they found themselves all but out of it.

Both times, it would appear that their success was boosted by a rise in their offensive output. A majority of their wins during each stretch (4-of-6 wins in the first stretch and 5-of-6 in the second) came when the team scored four or more goals. Furthermore, through the first 33 games of the season they only managed eight four-plus goal outings while posting a mark of 13-17-3. Over the past ten games they have five, nearly double the pace with which they began the season.

Voracek

Jake Voracek is having a stellar season… pic c/o bridgetds http://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetds/

When the O&B scores four or more goals, they posted a record of 12-1. For comparisons sake, the Pittsburgh Penguins posted a record of 17-2-0 over 19 games. That difference of five wins is good for ten points, also known as the difference between the Flyers and fifth place in the Eastern Conference. That right there speaks volumes about the Flyers ability to claim offensive dominance as their roster currently stands, but we shouldn’t be too hard on them.

The Flyers’ offense on the whole actually hasn’t been all that bad – it currently sits at 11th in the NHL, surrounded by playoff teams. With a few more consistent trips to the score sheet, they should be able to crack the top ten. The bigger concern is when the team fails to score more than three goals: the Flyers are just 7-20-3, while the Penguins are 15-8, for a whopping difference of 13 points in seven less opportunities.

When the Flyers score goals, they win (shocker!). Had they done so just a few more times and performed like the offensive powerhouse they claim to be, they might find themselves in the midst of the playoff picture. The thing is, when they don’t score goals, they pretty much don’t stand a chance.

Blame it on the 25th-ranked defense, right? That unit gets a bit of a pass in my book. Not only are there numerous serious injuries to the blue line, but it was borderline passable to begin with. That also doesn’t explain their recent stretch of success, when they’ve played arguably the best they have all season.

Pittsburgh is defensively better than the Flyers, but not by THAT much, particularly when you consider that they sit at 9th in the league in goals against per game (and .08 goals away from 15th — that’s just a few beers for my of-age readers). We’ve all seen them play with our own eyes. How does a slightly above average defensive team win THAT many more lower-scoring affairs?

In a low scoring game, you might think the Flyers had the upper hand with an offensively stacked deck. Maybe this is a sign of a lack of experience, or maybe it is flat out bad luck, but the losing percentage when scoring less than four goals is just baffling. If the Flyers can correct this issue next season, they stand a far better chance of regaining their usual place in the playoff pecking order.

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