It’s not exactly like the Flyers have been winning games with smoke and mirrors, but their 7-2-1 start certainly hasn’t been achieved the traditional way.
One statistic which runs counter to their early success has been their shots for and against totals.
People who track such “deep’’ numbers scratch their heads and wonder how the heck Philadelphia has given up more than 100 shots than it has taken and still keeps rolling in the redesigned East Division.
As of Monday, the Flyers were tied with Washington for the division lead and in a three-way tie (adding Toronto) for the NHL top point total with 15 – this despite having been outshot by a 337-236 margin.
Of course, shot totals can be a very arbitrary number: There are nights when 60-foot dump-ins are counted as genuine shots, both for and against.
Is there a possibility we’re putting too much emphasis on total shots and not enough on quality scoring chances?
Scoring opportunities, for and against, might help better explain why the Flyers have been able to gather 35 goals while allowing only 31.
This would seem to fly against conventional wisdom, given the Flyers’ minus-10.1 shot differential (23.6 shots per game for/33.7 shots against), which is second-worse in the NHL to only the Vancouver Canucks.
No doubt Flyers coach Alain Vigneault tracks these numbers like everybody else.
He doesn’t sound too concerned with this discrepancy, although remember we are only 10 games into a 56-game season. If the Flyers continue to give up so many shots (and take so few), goaltenders Carter Hart and Brian Elliott might think about walking down to Vigneault’s office for a little chat.
“I believe the last couple games as far as chances against, we’ve been better five-on-five,’’ Vigneault said prior to Sunday night’s game. “I really liked our first period last game (Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the Islanders).
“After that we had a harder time getting pucks in deep, making them go a full 200 feet. We bent a little but we didn’t break.’’
That seems to be the mantra so far. As long as it keeps working, there doesn’t seem to be any real cause for alarm.
>Patrick, Lindblom making progress
There were questions about the health and overall durability of both Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom coming off missed seasons (Patrick for a chronic migraine headache condition, Lindblom for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer).
But through 10 games, neither has shown any signs of being the worse for wear.
In fact, Patrick took a train-wreck check in Sunday night’s 4-3 win over the Islanders, got to his feet, went back to the bench and didn’t miss a shift.
“They’re coming along,’’ said Vigneault. “They’re a work in progress, like our team. Both those young men are coming back from very challenging situations.
“Having missed a full year in Oskar’s case and more than a full year in Nolan’s case, you have to show a little bit of patience. You have to trust that they’re going to find their game.’’
Patrick has two goals/five points with a minus-2 and a 53.6-percent faceoff win percentage. Lindblom has two goals/four points with a plus-2.
“They’re going to be fine,’’ Vigneault said. “They’re working their selves back into the elite players we believe they are.’’
>Keeping the faith
Kevin Hayes, who scored the winning goal in the decision over the Isles on Sunday night, was asked why the Flyers seem to find ways to win the close games even when they give up leads this season.
“Yeah, it just shows our team chemistry, our connection with the coaches,’’ Hayes said. “They don’t panic. I feel like every time we play these guys and playoffs and now we’re up two and then all of the sudden we are tied.
“It is a resilient group. We have the right leadership in this room. Even though ‘Coots’ (the injured Sean Couturier) is gone, he’s a tough guy to replace and we are still winning games. You want to win every game 10-0, but that’s not the case here. When you go up two goals and you’re feeling good about your game and all the sudden the game is tied, it’s very easy to point fingers and start panicking and this team doesn’t do that. I think it starts with our leadership group and starts with our coaches and I thought tonight it was a big reason why we won.’’
>Career night for JVR
Well after Sunday night’s game was over, James van Riemsdyk was credited with an assist on Hayes’ goal, giving him four assists for the night, a new career high.
The addition gives van Riemsdyk five goals and eight assists for 13 points through the first 10 games. That equals the best 10-game start of his career, done in 2009-10, his rookie season, when he had two goals and 11 assists for 13 points through his first 10 games.
At 7-2-1 for 15 points, the Flyers are off to their best 10-game start since the 2002-03 season, when they were 7-1-2 for 16 points after 10 games. It is only the 11th time in franchise history they have had 15 or more points through the first 10 games.