Flyers

NHL playoff picture: Flyers get no help, fall to five back

NHL playoff picture: Flyers get no help, fall to five back

After narrowing the gap in the wild-card chase to just three points Monday, the closest they’ve been to a playoff spot since Nov. 20, the Flyers received no help from the Bruins and Red Wings as they dropped to five points back in the standings following Tuesday night’s slate.

Wild-card standings

Tuesday’s games

CBJ — W 7-4 vs. Boston
MTL — W 3-1 vs. Detroit

• The Blue Jackets nearly totaled their goal output from their previous six games by putting up seven goals on the Boston Bruins. Trade deadline acquisitions Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel scored goals and Boone Jenner added a hat trick.

• Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stopped 20 shots to notch career win No. 315, passing Jacques Plante on the Canadiens’ all-time wins list.

What are the odds?

Sports Club Stats lists the Flyers’ chances to make the playoffs at 7.6 percent, up 2.2 percent following their win over Ottawa. The website Money Puck has the Flyers’ odds slightly lower at 6.2 percent.

What lies ahead? 

The Flyers have one game in hand on both Columbus and Montreal, which they will play this weekend. The Flyers have a gauntlet with a critical three games over a four-day stretch that includes a back-to-back with the Capitals followed by a road game in Toronto with a Sunday game at Pittsburgh — their final game against their cross-state rival.

The Blue Jackets have a Friday/Saturday back-to-back with a home game against the Hurricanes followed by a trip to Boston to face the Bruins again.

Like Columbus, the Canadiens have just two games this weekend, as well, as they travel to New York to face the Islanders Thursday before returning home to host the Blackhawks.

Strength of schedule

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Flyers have the third-toughest schedule down the stretch with 11 of their 13 games against teams with better records.

However, it doesn’t appear to be any easier for the Canadiens (second toughest) or the Hurricanes (fourth toughest). The Blue Jackets are roughly middle of the pack with the 14th-toughest schedule. 

But Columbus has just four more home games remaining in the regular season while it still has to travel to Western Canada to face the Oilers, Flames and Canucks. 

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Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

WASHINGTON — At least the Flyers spared us from the throwaway cliché of “If we play like this, we’ll win a lot of games this season” following their 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Sunday afternoon (see observations). 

It’a an all-too overused line that is thrown out there when a team dominates in possession time and by outshooting their opponent by a significant margin, only to be on the short end of the final score — much like the Flyers were in Washington.

It’s hardly believable on a number of levels. 

First, only the elite teams in the league dominate possession consistently over the course of an 82-game season enough to actually believe that, and secondly, the Flyers have proven when they do play like that, they simply don’t win. 

The Flyers have been an analytics nightmare this season when it comes to the metrics of shot totals.

The “Corsi For Percentage” at even strength metric is an easy computation of the team that attempts more shots (shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots) than its opponent. Over the course of an 82-game season, the conventional wisdom is that the better Corsi teams will win a higher percentage of games.

Quite simply, more volume equates to more victories. 

For the most part, this season has played out like the proponents of advanced metrics would have hoped for. The top ten teams in the CF% metric are currently occupying a playoff spot, while eight of the bottom 10 teams are currently outside the playoff picture. 

Except in the case of the 2018-19 Flyers, who are a completely flawed team in the analytics department.  

Sunday’s game was yet another example of the Flyers dominating possession and shot totals only to lose, and the most puzzling part is that this has been the case all season long.

When outshooting their opponents, the Flyers are a dismal 10-20-2, but when they’ve been outshot, they’re a head scratching 23-12-6. You’d expect those records to be flipped.

Under interim head coach Scott Gordon, those lopsided shot totals are even more tilted. The Flyers' CF% is 43.7 percent in the team’s wins under Gordon and nearly even at 50.5 percent in their losses.

By comparison, the Ottawa Senators, as you might expect, own the worst Corsi For Percentage in the NHL at 45.1 percent, as they’ve played the majority of their games in the defensive zone this season.
But how does one explain the Flyers? 

During their eight-game winning streak in January, the team's CF% was a miserable 41.4 percent when rookie Carter Hart was bailing them out on a nightly basis. Throughout their eight-game winless stretch in December and January, it was a very respectable 52.3 percent.   

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. 

With the Flyers this season, they seem to be telling us a lie. 

They needed to win the majority of games in which they outplayed the opposition, and to win a handful of games when they didn’t. 

Jakub Voracek may have summarized it best Sunday: “I don’t want to take anything out of this season, to be honest. I had way higher expectations. I think everybody did. It’s really disappointing. It sucks.”

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Capitals 3, Flyers 1: Swept by defending champs as 2018-19 run nearing end

Capitals 3, Flyers 1: Swept by defending champs as 2018-19 run nearing end

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — The Capitals completed a four-game season sweep of the Flyers for the first time since the 2006-07 season following a 3-1 win Sunday at Capital One Arena.

Back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Capitals will almost ensure the Flyers won’t qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The highest point total the Flyers can finish with is 92, if they can run the table over their final six games.

Here are my observations from Capital One Arena:

• The Flyers entered this game having surrendered an average of 42 shots per game over their last five games — the most they’ve allowed in any five-game stretch this season. Against the Capitals, though, they were clearly the better team, controlling play as they dominated in shot attempts by an overwhelming 44-10 margin in the second period alone, but couldn’t generate the game-tying goal. You have to wonder where that energy level was Saturday against the Islanders.

• The Flyers need a Tom Wilson-type player for next season. Wayne Simmonds was that kind of player in his prime, but no longer. The closest they had was Scott Hartnell, who played a similar style.

Wilson was a first-round pick because of his skill level combined with the edge he brings to the ice. The Caps simply don’t win the Stanley Cup without his feisty and chippy play, which was a difference maker in the Cup Final. With his 1-0 goal in this game, Wilson now has a career-high 22 goals this season, four of those against the Flyers.

• Sean Couturier will be my vote for the Bobby Clarke award as the Flyers' MVP this season with his all-around, two-way play, and a second straight 30-goal season.

However, I don’t think Couturier has had a Selke-worthy season like he showed in 2017-18 when he finished second to Anze Kopitar. Couturier was nearly flawless last season in his defensive positioning and his puck management in his end of the ice, but not quite as good this season. He had one of those miscues that led to the Caps' second goal of the game.

• The defensive pairing of Robert Hagg and Radko Gudas had apparently run its course. After the Hagg-Gudas pair looked awful in the game against the Islanders, it wasn't much better in the opening 10 minutes of this game.

The Flyers played much better defensively once interim head coach Scott Gordon paired Hagg with Philippe Myers and Gudas with Shayne Gostisbehere. However, the Flyers were exploited with the fourth line on the ice and Hagg pinching deep with no recognition from the forwards, which led to Jakub Vrana’s breakaway goal.

• Jakub Voracek scored a power-play goal, giving him 20 goals for the season and the sixth time in his last seven seasons in Philadelphia. While Voracek will never be considered a pure goal scorer, this puts him near exclusive company. Only 20 current players have six 20-goal seasons over the last seven seasons.

• Did you catch the delay before the opening faceoff? Phil Varone’s name was on the lineup card submitted to the official scorer, but Varone was a healthy scratch in favor of Justin Bailey. Had the change not been made prior to the faceoff, Bailey would have been ruled ineligible, according to rule 5.2 in the NHL rulebook, and the Flyers would have been forced to play with 11 forwards (which they’ve done a handful of times over the past month).

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