Steve Mason (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
The boys in Orange and Black are off to a rough start, but is it a structural problem, or a combination of bad luck and a pretty tough schedule early on?
The Philadelphia Flyers are keeping Carolina company at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and though nothing is really surprising in that grouping, Philly clearly has the talent to be more than a basement dweller, no? Through six games, the Flyers have just one win. The underlying numbers say they're due for a break. The eye test says they need to shape up.
The two most obvious factors in Philly's early swoon are schedule and the absence of defenseman Braydon Coburn, who is out with a lower body injury. Sure, losing 4-0 Chicago is more understandable than if the opponent was, say, Edmonton or Buffalo, but a loss is a loss and the Flyers are likely sick of those already. The fact they have played teams such as Montreal, Anaheim and Boston certainly hasn't helped, but Pittsburgh will be no walk in the park tonight, either. The Flyers will have to wait until early November for tilts against the Panthers and Oilers for a respite.
But watching the team, it is apparent that the defensive coverage is too soft right now; attacking players are given plenty of room on the rush, while others escape detection for easy scores. Second-chance goals have come far too often and then there are scenarios like the one in Anaheim where goalie Steve Mason made a nice stop on a point shot only to clear the rebound right to a Ducks player sandwiched between two Flyers. What are the odds?
Ironically, the Flyers also got lucky in their only win of the season, an overtime triumph over Dallas. The tying goal went in off Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, while Tyler Seguin found himself alone in front of the net with minutes to go, only to lose the puck in his skates.
Philadelphia may be in line for a more general change in luck, however. First of all, it's unlikely that Mason carries an .878 save percentage the whole season. And looking at the numbers, many Flyers have abnormally low PDO scores right now. A fancy stat that combines team shooting percentage and save percentage when a certain individual is on the ice, the number is supposed to settle around 1,000 in the long run. If it's substantially higher, a player is expected to regress (ie they've been lucky) and if it's lower, the player is due for some more puck luck.
Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, for example, are way low at 915 and 932, respectively. Those are two integral pieces of the Philadelphia offense and considering they are also great possession players, those PDO numbers will likely turn around. On the other hand, players such as Wayne Simmonds (1,080) and Nicklas Grossmann (1,055) are punching above their weight. So who wins out?
Going back to possession numbers, the majority of Flyers have negative Corsi scores right now. As a team, they're in the bottom third of the league, slightly worse than last year. Coburn was a decent possession player in 2013-14, but will his presence make that much of a difference once he returns?
For Flyers fans, the hope has to be that he stabilizes things at least a little. Because otherwise it's going to be a long season in Philadelphia.