Better With Popcorn

Missing Pieces

For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves on the wrong end of a two games to none hole in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After an embarrassing performance in Game 1, the Orange and Black put together a more respectable effort in an emotional Game 2 but still fell short in overtime.

In a night where fans bled red, white, and blue just as deeply as they bled orange and black, the Flyers’ only American born forward, James van Riemsdyk, continued his coming out party that has been the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

On Monday night, JVR continued to produce points at a rapid pace by adding his sixth and seventh goals of the second season. His play has developed at an awe-inspiring rate dominating every piece of ice that he touches and charging the net with conviction, speed, and power.

Listed at 6’3, 200 pounds, van Riemsdyk is characterized as a power forward, meaning, a player with size to muscle opponents and speed to make plays towards the net. This type of player is not necessarily a goal scorer in nature, but no body seemed to tell van Riemsdyk this. The desired goal of this particular kind of player is to force the goalie to make an initial save so that a rebound comes loose and a second and possible third chance opportunity can be attempted. Unfortunately, van Riemsdyk often seemed to be by himself when driving to the net.

Which is where Jeff Carter comes into play.

Jeff Carter scored 36 goals for the Flyers this season, the most of any player on the team. This is the third consecutive year in a row that Carter has held that honor. It is well documented that Carter has taken the brunt of the Flyers faithful's ridicule and is often times noted more for the shots he misses than the shots he makes.

Regardless of individual opinions on Carter, it is impossible to dispute that the man scores goals. He scores a lot of them and, through analyzing video, it is easy to see that Carter isn’t just sniping goals from the point.

As mentioned earlier, JVR drove the net on Monday night with little supplemental help from his linemates. At times, the puck was sitting on the doorstep and his teammates would have a difficult time winning battles in front of the net or pushing loose pucks home.

In analyzing all 16 of Nik Zherdev’s goals this season, 43.75% of his goals came from the slot, with only 18.75% of them coming from the front of the net. Although Zherdev has scored goals in front, only his April 3rd goal against the New York Rangers came with any kind of conflict in front of the net, and even in that instance, Zherdev drove the net more so than battled. As you can see below, tip-ins in front of the net were the fewest source of Zherdev’s scoring this season:

Of Jeff Carter’s 36 goals, 58.3% of them came from the very front of the goalmouth, meaning right in front or inside of the crease. Carter is often depicted as a sniper who tends to stay on the outside by attempting wrist shots from the slot or from exterior zones (meaning he doesn’t like to get his hands dirty). Carter does like to shot from the outside (19.4% of his goals came from exterior zones) but of the way he scored his goals (meaning deflections, wrist shots) 30.5% of them come from tip-ins.

From analyzing Jeff Carter’s scoring this season, it is easy to see that he understands how to circle the net. Carter does have a solid set of hands that enable him to shoot the puck, but at the end of the day, Carter is just as comfortable picking up the trash out front as he is ripping a shot from the slot.

If Carter can come back into the series for Game 3, it seems like it would be in coach Laviolette’s best interest to pair him with JVR and Giroux. With JVR’s ability to get to the net and Giroux’s ability to put the puck wherever he wants, Carter should be able to add the scoring touch to that line that the Flyers will need in Game 3.

Follow me on twitter:
@mattbrigidi