Comparing the '09/10 Hawks & '10/11 Flyers
One doesn't have to look very far to find some similarities between last year's Stanley Cup winners and this year's Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams enjoyed regular season success, thriving on a wealth of depth at the forward position and steady play on the blue line. The Chicago Blackhawks harnessed the disappointment of losing in the Western Conference Finals the previous year. They used it as a reminder to remain focused on the ultimate goal. Once they hoisted the Stanley Cup, they passed that disappointment to the team they defeated. It's no coincidence that the Flyers' 'all in' attitude stems from coming just two wins from the sport's holy grail.
Thus far, the Flyers have passed most of their tests this season with flying colors. Through 62 games, the team has put themselves in line for the Eastern Conference's number one seed with an impressive 40-16-6 record. When looking back at Chicago's record through 62 games last season, there is a stunningly similar record of 41-16-5.
The connections between the two teams don't stop there. In last year's regular season, Chicago averaged 3.30 goals scored per game, while averaging 2.55 goals allowed. At this point, the Flyers have scored 3.27 goals per game while allowing 2.56.
In an attempt to illustrate the team's similarities further, here are some tables that show the production of each player that spent significant time with the two teams. The statistics have been displayed in the format of 'per game' to provide an idea of what each player adds to the team night in, night out.
(Note: The lines provided for Chicago were maintained from a few Blackhawks writers, as well as Dobber Hockey, while the Flyers lines were set according to most likely lines from this season.)
At first glance, the most surprising comparison here is James van Riemsdyk and Dustin Byfuglien. As Flyers fans will remember, Byfuglien was incredible in the playoffs, but in the regular season his averages are below where JVR's are right now. Both captains are extremely close, but Toews holds the edge over his line-mate from the Vancouver Olympics, Mike Richards. With over a one point per game average, Patrick Kane is far beyond Kris Versteeg's production, as well as anyone else on either club.
The Versteeg influence is intriguing, because in Chicago he was placed on the second line instead of the top winger spot which he currently holds in Philadelphia. However, it's not completely reflective of reality. Head coach Peter Laviolette puts emphasis on the first line as a defensive line, which is why Andreas Nodl saw an extended amount of time there until Versteeg's arrival via trade.
The Flyers hold a clear advantage with the second lines of the two teams. Once again, it's interesting to note the 'Versteeg factor'. His statistics used in the comparison as a Flyer are his cumulative stats for the season, most of which was spent in Toronto. But, he also spent time with lesser teammates in Toronto than he did in Chicago or will play with in Philadelphia. Still, his numbers this season are above that of last season's average.
The third line comparison is where the similarity between the two teams really shows. Not often is a team's third line their best, but in either case the point could be made. Claude Giroux is the Flyers' top scorer and having him on the third line has been a luxury for them all season. He usually switches at the center position with Jeff Carter, who is tied for the second highest points per game average on the team.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are also players that one wouldn't expect to see on the third line in today's NHL. The depth of both teams is reflected in the production from the third lines, and it's very impressive.
As for the fourth lines, Chicago clearly has an advantage offensively due in large part to Jody Shelley's presence for the Flyers. Shelley, Daniel Carcillo and Nikolay Zherdev have all spent a decent amount of the time in the lineup, but Shelley as played the most games of the four. Adam Burish and Bryan Bickell had only .01 points per game more than Zherdev and Carcillo in 31 games combined. The Flyers duo has been in the lineup for a total of 88 games already this season.
(Note: Barker was traded after playing 51 games with Chicago)
Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith is the obvious outlier among the group of defenseman on the two teams. Last year, Keith had a higher points per game average than all but three Blackhawks. His average was also higher than all but four players of this year's Flyers team. While Brian Campbell and Keith hold the highest average among defenseman, the next three highest averages are Flyers, with Brent Seabrook rounding out the top six.
It's no secret that the Flyers' goaltending position is similar to the one that the Blackhawks used last season. However, the stark contrast between the two situations is that Sergei Bobrovsky has been given 60 percent of the team's starts, while Antti Niemi was only given 45 percent. Both Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have better save percentages, yet worse goals allowed and win percentages.
When taking an in-depth look at the Blackhawks' statistics last season, it's no surprise that they hoisted the Stanley Cup. The parallels between that team and this year's Flyers club show that the cup may be raised in Philadelphia for the second straight season.
However, it may be hoisted by the home team this time.