May 30, 2016
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals gets underway tonight across the commonwealth later tonight, going up directly against Warriors-Thunder Game 7 (SMH, NHL schedule makers). In that matchup, the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins won’t provide a national audience (after Game 1, that is) with a powerhouse goaltending matchup.
Martin Jones vs. Matt Murray isn’t exactly Quick-Lundqvist from just a few years ago. And as the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski writes, this trend should make the Flyers feel OK about their goaltending situation. You don’t really need an elite goaltender to move deep in the playoffs:
Just look at the trends. In 2005-2006, the average save percentage among NHL goaltenders was .901. In each of the last two seasons, it was .915. Training and instruction at the position have improved over time. "Goaltending is now a teachable system," Flyers TV analyst Bill Clement once said. "It's getting more technically perfect."
There is another quote in there from Henrik Lundqvist about how the gap is lessening between the top five or so goaltenders and the rest of the Top-20. He would know. In Michal Neuvirth (T-4) and Steve Mason (T-19), the Flyers had two Top-20 goalies in save percentage this season. Jones had the same .918 mark as Mason.
Everyone knows about the Flyers’ checkered history with goaltenders. And regardless if they find a truly elite netminder, the position (and sport as a whole) might be changing to the point where you don’t necessarily need one:
[Jones] hasn't made the difference for the Sharks. His teammates have. The Flyers used to make that argument a lot - that a franchise goalie was a luxury but not a necessity, that the skaters in front of him always mattered more. They just made it in the wrong era. Nowadays, they would probably be right. They can find a goalie. The trick will be finding everything else.
After a year of tracking Flyers zone exits, what have we learned about the defense? Charlie O’Connor, Broad Street Hockey
O’Connor spends the entire year tracking exits, and some of his findings aren’t what the ol’ eye test (though this is literally a more refined eye test) would lead you to believe. Radko Gudas, who I think most would agree played well for the Flyers this season, didn’t grade out very well in his own zone, for example:
This exit data clearly shows that there are limitations to Gudas' game, specifically on the puck-moving side of the ledger. Even though Gudas was effective while paired with Brandon Manning at the tail end of the season and into the playoffs, I can't help but suspect that a reunion with Michael Del Zotto next season (assuming Gudas is re-signed) would be the best way for the Flyers to hide the Czech defenseman's weaknesses and let him play to his strengths.
Ivan Provorov has been racking up the hardware, and he was named the best defenseman in all of junior hockey:
In his second season in the WHL, Wheat Kings defenceman Ivan Provorov played a major role for Brandon at both ends of the ice. The 19-year-old from Yaroslavl, Russia finished first in scoring amongst WHL defencemen with 73 points, which included 21 goals in 62 games, while also leading the League with a plus-64 rating. A member of Russia’s National Junior Team that won silver at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Provorov was selected seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2015 NHL Draft. Finalists for the award include 2016 NHL Draft prospects Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires and Samuel Girard of the Shawinigan Cataracts.
Puck Soup Podcast: Greg Wyshynski and Dave Lozo
This episode features a talk with Brian Weitz (aka Geologist) of Animal Collective about his lifetime Flyers fandom.
End to End: Which Flyer has the most to lose in 2016-17? Jordan Hall, Tom Dougherty, and Greg Paone, Comcast SportsNet Philly
Matt Read’s on-ice performance is often debated on Flyers Twitter. Hall thinks that 2016-17 could be make-or-break for the 30-year-old forward:
I believe Matt Read will be back next season. After all, he’s under contract through the 2017-18 campaign.
But his leash will be as short as it’s even been. At 30 years old, he’ll be fighting just to dress. And when he gets playing time, he’ll have to do enough to show he deserves it over other candidates, many of which will be young, spry and hungry for jobs.
Read said he learned a lot last season. Will he make adjustments and carve out a role in Dave Hakstol’s system? Next season, we’ll get an answer.
Sam Morin Continues His Path Toward the NHL: Tony Androckitis
Despite being the 11th pick in the 2011 draft, Morin has been bypassed by many of the other impressive defensive prospects that the Flyers have. Androckitis monitored his progress all year:
Morin had all eyes on him this season while in Lehigh Valley. He improved as the season went along and will be a big part of the Phantoms' defense core in 2016-17, but the arrival of Travis Sanheim might relieve some of the pressures of being under a microscope by management, staff, media and the fans alike.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann