Flyers Defense Having a Better Season Than Expected
Coming into this season, hopes were not high for the defensemen on the Flyers roster.
Between Kimmo Timonen aging, Andrej Meszaros struggling, and the seemingly odd Mark Streit signing, fans had a lot of questions and concerns.
Fast forward to April and no one has been questioning the defense of this Flyers team. Timonen no longer looks his age, Meszaros was sent to Boston, and Streit has been able to play a lot of minutes.
The unfortunate thing is that it is hard to get a grasp on how well the defensemen in Philadelphia have been playing. They are not a group of offensive defensemen. You will not find them anywhere near the top in goals, assists, or points in the league for defensemen.
There are a couple of exciting stats to look into, however.
The newest Flyers defenseman, 27-year-old Andrew MacDonald, leads the league in blocked shots with 231. Second behind him is Chris Butler from the Calgary Flames with 194 blocked shots. Nicklas Grossmann is also sixth in blocked shots with 171.
The blue line has also had a physical presence on the ice. Luke Schenn is third in hits among NHL defensemen with 234.
Looking internally, the Flyers have a well balanced group of defensemen. The ice time per game per guy is relatively close to even.
Among the regular active defensemen, Braydon Coburn is first with 22:31 minutes per game and Luke Schenn is last with 16:33. The Flyers have not had to worry about riding one guy an average of close to 30 minutes while another one barely gets 10 minutes. The trust in each defenseman is clearly there.
The Flyers also find themselves in the top ten in the league in both power play and penalty kill. This actually says a lot about their defense as defensemen are the quarterback on the powerplay and the anchor on the penalty kill.
The Flyers have even seen guys like Streit and MacDonald with quality PP time and Grossmann and Streit with quality PK time. It is all about depth.
The bottom line is that this group of defensemen has exceeded expectations. This is not just Timonen and Coburn’s team. Their fellow Flyers defensemen have earned respect, minutes and recognition.
It is rare to notice a clear mistake or notice who is even on the ice at defense. The skill level seems to be distributed much more evenly than it has been in a while. It may not be the flashy offensively powered defense that fans yearn for, but it is certainly above average, and that is all that should matter.
So while the Flyers may not be blessed with an Erik Karlsson or Ryan McDonagh, their defense has been getting it done this year. The Flyers have plenty of scoring talent and depth up front, so the defense simply needs to be playing good, strong and gritty defense. That is exactly what has been happening on a consistent basis.
And what is even more exciting is that the depth of the Flyers defense looks even better in the coming years.