A successful return trip from Europe, with a win tucked away from a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Global Series in Prague and the Flyers are back in action Wednesday night, hosting the revamped New Jersey Devils.
The Flyers have a healthy amount of microstats data from 2018-19 to assess style and tactics. The mammoth tracking effort is being manually conducted by Corey Sznajder. He has a Patreon that assists him in his efforts, so if you enjoy some of the microstatistics that are gaining mainstream momentum, consider supporting him.
Before settling into team metrics, I wanted to show a little about players and their individual contributions to the Flyers offense. In the past we would measure these contributions with goals and assists, but with hobbyist innovations, we can use better metrics now.
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Usurping goals, assists, points, primary points (goals and first assists), we can lean on a metric established by Ryan Stimson called primary shot contributions, or PSC, measuring a player’s individual shots and primary shot assists. For our purposes all data is presented at 5v5.
A shot assist is defined as a pass immediately preceding a shot on goal. Normalizing the data into a per-60 minute rate is better than using raw stats here. The methodology established by Stimson in his writeup has really blossomed into more nuanced analysis include coaching tactics, that have evolved from PSC.
In Ryan’s writeup:
“a player’s primary shot contributions (again, their own shots and those they set up for others as the final passer) can more accurately predict their primary points over the remainder of a season and can do so far, far quicker. In fact, you need only eleven games of data to find the strongest correlation between a player’s Primary Shot Contributions/60 (hereafter PSC/60), and how many Primary Points/60 (hereafter PrP/60) they’ll score over the rest of the season.”
Corey adopted Stimson’s methodology and tracks the same passing data from the original passing project and here we can see Stimson’s metric in practical use.
We see the table below where the Flyers forwards fared, with Claude Giroux leading the way – to no one’s surprise. The Flyers stalwart played a great deal with Sean Couturier throughout the season – even if the pair was spotted at times over the second half instead of a regular shift. He also skated with Travis Konecny a great deal last season. The 5v5 results are shown below in 51 games tracked.
The passes per 60 rate incorporates primary and secondary passes and the A1 indicates primary shot assists (not assists on goals to avoid any confusion). To calculate the PSC, add the Shots/60 and A1/60.
Phil Varone seems to be a solid contributor despite a small 48 minute sample is not very large in comparison to the larger sample. Jakub Voracek – even as he played away from Giroux for most of the season, contributed heavily, while Konecny (who has an excellent opportunity for an impressive breakout campaign in 2019-20) and Couturier sandwich prodigal son, James van Riemsdyk. It’s interesting to note that ‘JvR’ leans heavier on his shot generation than primary shot assists. The consummate model net-front presence is a vast superior goal scoring threat than an articulate playmaker. Regardless, he makes it work and contributions to shots on goal are always a welcome component.
Team Level Metrics
It gets interesting when taking the passing metrics to the team level. Stimson has used some of this consolidation to further tactics and systems comprehension and has opened to doors to more detailed and nuanced analysis. As Corey tracks passes, zone entry and exits, there’s enough data here to further establish the Flyers capability at even strength. As stated, these metrics are strictly 5v5.
The table below combines the average passing play percentages and metrics from a game by game sample of 51 games, where the Flyers have fired multiple passes (marked here at 2+ passes), both for and against.
In games where Philadelphia mustered more than two passes before a shot on goal they fared better across all other metrics, producing better Corsi and Chance percentages by a wide margin.
The only metric that doesn’t follow suit is low-to-high passes (from low in the zone to the point or high point of the zone), with a greater percentage occurring when the Flyers took less shots with two passes preceding the shot. There could be different reasons to account for this, including pucks getting dumped into the zone and recovered behind the goal line without an immediate scoring play and moved back to the point. The Behind the Net metric shows that 1.6 shots are below the 2.13 when above average multiple pass games, so it’s not like Philly is getting pucks in deep and setting up scoring chances in front of the net. They are likely cycling the puck up to the point and reloading the forward group deeper into the zone for an expected shot. This can be observed through game play and will be a feature I am looking for this season.
The chart below plots the 10-game moving average of games with multiple passes for and against from the game by game table that established the average metrics above. A midseason trough peaked in February before dipping back down to the average (15.94). They allowed a fair number of multiple passes prior to a shot event as the season chugged along.
To get a good handle on the Flyers, I’d like to see the style of play to determine if they are in fact moving pucks behind the net and getting it up to the point before a shot event at 5v5. There’s more to integrate as the season moves forward, but the Flyers seem to have adopted many concepts stemming from analytics studies. As this season chugs along, I’ll be watching and measuring the results to compare them season over season. Stay tuned, I’ll revisit this post in the future.