Tag: stat analysis

Philadelphia Flyers v Florida Panthers

Game of the Week preview: Three reasons why the Flyers are suddenly struggling

When you play a grueling (and occasionally tedious) 82-game season, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll hit a brick wall or two. Even the most dominant Stanley Cup winners of the past stuttered a little bit during their king’s speeches.

Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers probably struggled as often as they triumphed, as the team needed a shootout win over the New York Rangers to clinch a playoff spot in the last game of the 2009-10 season. Some thought that the team might regress a bit after their red-hot run to the Stanley Cup finals, but Peter Laviolette’s deep, talented group hasn’t missed a beat.

Until now, of course.

The Flyers are a pedestrian 7-6-1 in 14 games since the All-Star break and have lost their last three games (along with four of their last five). CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio captured the “it’s better to struggle now rather than the playoffs” type-mood in the locker room, which is a sentiment that’s difficult to deny. Still, it’s also difficult to deny that they are struggling, so here are three reasons that might explain why.

1. A lack of hunger?

Look, professional sports teams always want to win. If athletes were indifferent to the idea, they’d probably be in a different field.

Still, there’s a reason why there is “bulletin board material” in sports. Sometimes you need that extra bit of motivation, something the Flyers probably lack to some degree. After all, it’s easier to win those late February/early March board battles or block that extra shot if you’re fighting for your playoff lives rather than simply trying to protect the top seed.

Philadelphia will see a desperate, but less talented team in the Rangers at 12:30 pm ET for the NBC Game of the Week. Chances are, if the Flyers match the Rangers’ intensity, the East’s first ranked team should win.

2. The Flyers’ scoring is drying up.

While the “hunger” factor is mostly subjective (and thus a hypothesis), the next two reasons are purely concrete. It’s surprising to see, but their vaunted offense is sputtering more than a bit lately.

Since their first post-All Star Game contest on February 1st, Philadelphia hasn’t scored more than three goals in a single game. It’s natural to point to goaltending when the Flyers struggle – heck, it’s a time honored tradition to blame their netminders – but what makes this team scary is their staggering offensive and defensive depth. If wave after wave of quality forwards can’t get it done, it’s not fair to fit Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky with goat horns.

3. A lack of closing strength.

The previous two points converge into their last problem: an inability to finish games strong. Ryan Bright highlights a disturbing stat during the Flyers’ last seven games: the team has been out-scored 12-3 during the third period (not counting empty netters). Call it a lack of hunger, goaltenders dropping the ball or simply a lack of punch, but that’s the kind of number that should raise a few eyebrows.


While many will point to the Flyers’ net as their biggest source of concern, there’s only so much the team can do about that right now. Yet as the playoffs approach, the team can improve their scoring, get better in the third period and learn to match the desperation of their opponents.

After scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs last season, the Flyers could sleepwalk into the postseason this year and still be in the mix. They would be wise to avoid taking that route if they want to go deep in the tournament, though.

Bruins homer TV guy Jack Edwards wants stats to stop being homeriffic

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Whether you love him or he makes you want to jab Q-tips in your ears to make the noise stop, Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards is, at the very least, an interesting character. He’s also a ruthlessly pro-Bruins announcer on the broadcast so if you’re watching the game as a fan of the Bruins opponents chances are you’re not going to be too happy. Such homerism can be endearing in its own way if you’re a Bruins fan though and Edwards has become a bit of a cult favorite in Beantown because of it. It’s also pretty amusing when Edwards is either cackling at a downed opponent or citing American colonial history when describing a Bruins victory. It’s both festive and it makes you think you’re on another planet.

That’s what makes Edwards’ column today about wanting statistics in arenas that aren’t Boston to be more truthful to how the game played out rather funny to read. In typical Jack Edwards fashion, he’s calling for a revolution in how stats are kept at games. Where’s the fife and drum corps to provide the soundtrack for this rant? Give us liberty or give us death, Jack Edwards.

Pittsburgh assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald (Billerica boy and Bruin in the 2005-06 season) used to stare in bewilderment at the “Event Summary” sheet. After having thrown his body around with abandon on virtually every shift, he would board the bus shaking his head, saying, “How can I have just one hit in the game?” Most of the time, the answer was as simple as this: NHL stats are in the eyes of the beholders, and most of the beholders are beholden to the home teams.

Nowhere is that more blatant than Buffalo.

For Wednesday night’s event summary of a 5-2 game that was nowhere near as close a battle as the score, go to this link.

If the NHL wants its statistics to withstand even mild scrutiny, it needs to have annual formal training of every off-ice official — to do it all at once for everyone in the Eastern Conference and then to duplicate the presentation and execution of the teachings for everyone in the Western Conference.

With all that bluster that Edwards is rather famous for, he’s got a pretty good point here although it’s generally accepted with baseball-like old-time nostalgia that the home team is going to get the benefit of the doubt from the scorekeepers when it comes to things like shots on goal.

With statistics becoming more of a big deal for fans and team executives alike, keeping stats accurate is going to take a little bit of time to get it right. Having a small army of staff on hand to try and track everything is asking a lot especially when you’re not exactly rolling in the dough to do it. When you’re tracking time on ice, shots on goal, scoring chances, and all sorts of other intricate numbers it can make your eyes go crossed.

Taking a nod from baseball and deepening the kinds of numbers you’re tracking so you can better understand what players can and cannot do on the ice is a good thing but if everything is done with a wink and a nod towards giving the home team a little bit of a boost, it’s more of a hindrance than anything. It also doesn’t do the home team any good if your stats are juiced and you’re run off the ice by the road team.

Inside the Western Conference Standings – October 24


Every now and then, we’ll take a look at each conference’s standings to see if there are any trends or quirks that explain why some teams are failing and others are overachieving. Obviously, these results will reveal bigger truths once we advance later into this season … but it’s still fun and interesting to take a peek at bigger picture numbers.

Note: All standings stats are based on figures taken BEFORE tonight’s games.

Earlier tonight, we took a look at some of the Eastern Conference quirks and totals. Now let’s go out West.

Most games played: 10 – Chicago.

Least games played: 6 – Phoenix, Edmonton, San Jose (although the Sharks will play their seventh game against Calgary tonight).

Strongest teams at home

The West isn’t as weird as the East, although it does have an odd mix of teams who are either really strong at home but weak on the road or vice versa. The Detroit Red Wings are looking like the Red Wings of old – at least early – though, with a league-best 5-1-1 record. Nashville isn’t far behind, though, as they’re 2-0-3 at home and are on the verge of going 3-0 on the road.

Here are the teams who depend heavily on home cooking.

  • St. Louis (4-0-0 at home; 1-2-0 on the road)
  • Vancouver (3-0-0 at home; 0-3-1 on the road)
  • Anaheim (2-0-1 at home; 1-5-0 on the road)

Road warriors

Conversely, here are the teams who might want to consider staying at a hotel rather than the comfort of their own homes if these trends continue.

  • Columbus (1-3-0 at home; 3-0-0 on the road)
  • San Jose (0-2-1 at home; 3-0-0 on the road)

Leaking oil

After a promising 2-0 start, the Edmonton Oilers are plummeting back to earth. They’re on the worst losing streak in the NHL right now (four games), allowing four goals or more in each defeat. Overall, the Oilers have been outscored 19-8 in those losses.


As I said in the Eastern Conference piece, it’s far too early to draw too many conclusions from these trends. Still, it’s interesting to see which teams are getting valuable road wins and which ones are letting crucial home points slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, in particular, will need to play better at home to avoid  record low turnouts this season.

Inside the Eastern Conference Standings – October 24

Buffalo Sabres v New Jersey Devils

Every now and then, we’ll take a look at each conference’s standings to see if there are any trends or quirks that explain why some teams are failing and others are overachieving. Obviously, these results will reveal bigger truths once we advance later into this season … but it’s still fun and interesting to take a peek at bigger picture numbers.

Note: All standings stats are based on figures taken BEFORE tonight’s games.

OK, let’s take a look at some of the things that jump out from the Eastern Conference standings.

Most games played: 9 – Pittsburgh and Buffalo (although New Jersey is playing their ninth against the Rangers tonight).

Least games played: 6 – Boston, Florida and NY Rangers (although the Rangers will play their seventh tonight).

So much for road weariness

Usually, when in doubt in any sporting event, you’ll take the home team. That hasn’t really been the case so far, though. Check out some of the best road teams in the East so far.

  • Boston: 3-0-0
  • Pittsburgh: 3-0-1
  • Tampa Bay, Montreal and NY Rangers: 3-1-0

Only three out of the 15 conference teams are below .500 on the road so far: Ottawa (1-3-1), Florida (1-2) and Washington (1-2).

Home is not so sweet

Of course, the equal reaction to that action is that teams’ home records are surprisingly awful so far. Here are some of the teams who can argue that they’re dealing with a home ice disadvantage.

  • New Jersey: 0-4-1
  • Buffalo: 0-4-1
  • Boston, Ottawa and Atlanta: 1-2

Only Washington (4-1), NY Islanders (2-0-1), Tampa Bay (2-0-1), Toronto (2-1-1) and Florida (2-1) are above .500 at home in the East.

The “Southleast” no longer …

Every team in the Southeast Division is at .500 or better, with the Florida Panthers being the worst team at 3-3-0.

Carolina’s schedule really has been odd

Joe Corvo’s griping was indeed justified. The Hurricanes are 3-3 on the road and only played one game at “home” so far … and that was in Helsinki, Finland.


OK, again, these are small samples taken from only six to nine games out of an 82 game season. Still, you have to wonder if rocky home starts will make it difficult for the Devils and Sabres to repeat as division champions. It’ll be interesting to watch.