In this age of advanced hockey analytics, there’s still one old-fashioned statistic that stands the test of time.
That’s team goal differential.
The formula is fairly easy: If you finish the season in the black – that is, you score more goals than you allow – there’s a good chance you’re going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Conversely, if you wind up in the red – as the Flyers did last season when they surrendered a whopping 37 more goals than they scored – you start your summer in April.
Goal differential was one of the first questions asked of Flyers new head coach Alain Vigneault the day he was hired shortly after Philadelphia’s season came to an end.
Vigneault answered by saying all the right things, that teams only succeed when they play good, two-way hockey.
And so far, eight games into the new season heading into Saturday night’s contest against Columbus, the Flyers had been doing exactly that.
In fact, in two previous wins over Vegas and Chicago, the Flyers were an encouraging plus-7.
Cutting down on goals allowed is the key. Last season the Flyers gave up 281 goals. . .only woeful Chicago and Ottawa gave up more.
While it starts with the play of goaltenders Carter Hart and Brian Elliott, perhaps the most important element is a commitment to five-man defense. Not allowing odd-man rushes. Killing penalties. Short shifts. Getting early leads and then holding onto them.
There have been a few examples of this in recent games where the Flyers held their opponents to just one shot for an entire period.
Kind of makes it hard for an opponent to score when it can’t get shots on net.
A quick look at last year’s NHL standings reveals why it’s important to finish “in the black.’’
Of the 15 teams which missed the playoffs, only one of them (Montreal) finished with a plus number.
All 16 teams which did make the playoffs were on the plus side of the ledger.
When you hear players such as Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere – two guys who have been known to take risks with the puck – talk about playing the game “the right way,’’ you know Vigneault and his staff are on to something.
So if you want to know how the Flyers are playing this season, don’t just stare at the number of wins or points; keep an eye on that goal differential.
If there’s a plus next to that number, it’s a good bet the Flyers are headed in the right direction.
>Ex-Flyer Seidenberg calls it a career
Veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, 38, has decided to retire after a great 15-year NHL career, which included a ring from the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Seidenberg, you might recall, was a draft pick of the Flyers back in 2001 (sixth round, 172nd overall). He played 92 games with the Flyers and another 131 with the Phantoms.
From there, it was off to Phoenix, Carolina, Florida, Boston and finally the New York Islanders.
Funny thing is, the Flyers had a chance to re-sign him as a free agent after his stint with the Hurricanes but decided the asking price was too high.
Seidenberg never completely severed ties with the Flyers. We would run into him at the Skate Zone during the offseason where he worked out on occasion.
The native of Germany spoke softly but carried an effective stick.
However, time catches up to everyone and the aches and pains just got to be too much.
“Physically it just does not work anymore, my shoulder and wrists are pretty much done after 15 years in the NHL,” said Seidenberg to the German outlet EIS Hockey News with the help of Google translate (by way of an article by Joe Haggerty/NBC Sports Boston).
Seidenberg last played in the NHL back in the 2017-18 season after two years in the Islanders organization, but was limited to 28 games due to injuries before playing his last hockey for Team Germany during the 2018 IIHF World Championships.
It should be noted Islanders rookie sensation Mat Barzal lived with Seidenberg and his family when he first arrived on Long Island and he wound up winning the Calder Trophy (NHL top rookie) after his first season in New York.
Here’s a number that jumps out at you: During Boston’s Stanley Cup run (which included a seven-game victory in the Final over Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks club), Seidenberg averaged an incredible 27:38 of ice time.
He was paired with future Hall of Fame defenseman Zdeno Chara as the Bruins’ top defensive shutdown pairing.
Seidenberg played 859 NHL games in an illustrious career.
Humble, hard-nosed, happy almost all the time. Those are the traits which made him a special player.