Better With Popcorn

Quick-Strike Goal Study: 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers

Thursday, October 21, 2010 --  It's a little after seven o’clock and the majority of fans have taken their seats. Public address announcer Lou Nolan has just asked the crowd if they “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME HOCKEY!?” to which they retort with a raucous response. Philadelphia captain Mike Richards meets Anaheim’s newly appointed captain Ryan Getzlaf at center ice for the opening puck drop. As play expands beyond the center ice circle, the fans anxiously await the first chance to shower the home team with a cacophony of cheers.

Then, before any one even has the slightest chance to mention how good rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had looked up to that point, Lubomir Visnovsky wrists a shot over his right shoulder to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead just 35 seconds into the game. 

The quick-strike goal is a polarizing phenomenon; it’s that extra bit of energy that your team needed to tie the game or that backbreaking goal late in the third to put the contest just out of reach. Whether they realize it or not, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers had a front row seat to a large amount of quick-strike goals this season. Unfortunately, the majority of them were as crushing as the example above.

For the purposes of this study, a quick-strike goal is defined by three separate characteristics:

  1. Any goal scored within the first 1:30 of any regulation period
  2. Any goal scored within 2:30 of a ‘goal for’ (labeled as ‘Consecutive’)
  3. Any goal scored within 2:30 of a ‘goal against’ (labeled as ‘Retaliation’)

The goals are separated into ‘For’ and ‘Against’ categories to define how many times a team had a quick-strike scored against in addition to how many times they themselves scored one. The total ‘For’ and ‘Against’ numbers will be labeled as individual occurrences, but it’s important to keep in mind that individual occurrences do not mean individual goals. When a team registers a ‘Consecutive’ quick-strike goal they are either scoring or allowing two goals within a span of two minutes, where as in the other two categories, the team is only scoring/allowing a single goal.  All numbers were based on regulation playing time. Considering that the strategy as well as the amount of men on the ice is different in overtime periods, all overtime statistics have been removed from this study. All numbers are based on regular season performance.

The Flyers allowed the most quick-strike goal occurrences ‘Against’ of any other team in the league finishing with a total of 68. The Atlanta Thrashers finished in second with 66, the Tampa Bay Lightning in third with 63 and the Colorado Avalanche in fourth with 61.

Nineteen of the occurrences fell into the first category: allowing goals in the first minute-thirty of any period. Four times the team allowed goals at the start of the first period, eight times they allowed goals at the start of the second, and seven times they allowed goals at the start of the third. Their total of 19 tied them with the Chicago Blackhawks for the fourth highest of any team in the league.

Philadelphia allowed consecutive goals to occur on 22 separate occasions, which was the sixth highest total of any team.  The number put them in the company of teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning (27), Atlanta Thrashers (26), Toronto Maple Leafs (26) and New York Islanders (23).  

The Flyers allowed the majority of their quick-strike goals in the third category, ‘Retaliation’ goals. On 27 separate occasions the Flyers scored a goal and then allowed a goal within two minutes and thirty seconds of scoring that initial goal. The total is the third highest of any team. By comparison, the Flyers only retaliated in a similar manner 16 times, which ranked them 20th in the league.  

While the number is not exact due to the fact that some goals overlap multiple categories, this study came to show that quick-strike goals composed around 41% of all regulation ‘Goals Against’ for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010-11; The single highest total of any team in the league. In the Anaheim Ducks example used at the beginning of this article, the Flyers ended up losing the contest 3-2.  For a team that ended up one point shy of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, that Visnovsky goal 35 seconds into the first period ended up haunting them further down the line.

To answer why these goals occur is far more difficult than the actual process of locating them on the stat sheet.  The team’s style of play, the coach’s decisions on match-ups, and overall team skill all are plausible explanations; however, there doesn’t seem to be any way to truly pin point the main reason why this phenomena occurs. Upon analyzing the numbers of all 30 NHL teams, a trend, not an explanation, began to arise.

 

The following chart will display the ten teams that allowed the least amount of quick strike goals:

1.)

BOSTON

36

2.)

NEW YORK RANGERS

36

3.)

BUFFALO

37

4.)

WASHINGTON

39

5.)

PITTSBURGH

39

6.)

PHOENIX

39

7.)

VANCOUVER

41

8.)

NEW JERSEY

41

9.)

CALGARY

41

10.)

SAN JOSE

42

 

This next chart will display the complete list of teams that allowed the most quick strike goals:

1.)

PHILADELPHIA

68

2.)

ATLANTA

66

3.)

TAMPA BAY

63

4.)

COLORADO

61

5.)

DETROIT

60

6.)

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

59

7.)

ST. LOUIS

58

8.)

DALLAS

56

9.)

OTTAWA

56

10.)

COLUMBUS

55

 

When comparing the two lists it’s evident that the teams grouped together all have a common bond. The teams in the first list all have solid presences in net, while the teams in the second list do not. All the teams in the first list, with the (possible) exception of San Jose and Washington, all have what many would refer to as “elite level” goaltenders occupying their nets. Five of the ten teams in the second list either made or tried to make moves to bring in a new goaltender to strengthen their team. Obviously, Philadelphia had a highly publicized issue with the goaltender position once the playoffs rolled around and if one considers their goalie carousel a move to strengthen their goaltending then they would be the sixth team out of the ten to make a move.

Goaltenders take the brunt of the blame when things go wrong and that's especially true in Philadelphia. There is, of course, a set of six defensemen also in front of the goaltender. Certainly the highly-touted Philadelphia defensive core should be included in the blame for the team leading the league in this dubious honor. But when analyzing the total goals allowed this season, one will find that the Flyers ranked 11th in least amount of total goals ‘Against’. That's a whole world away from their bottom of the pile 30th ranked 68 quick-strike goals ‘Against’. In addition, teams like Edmonton, Toronto and Carolina all finished the season in the bottom third of goals allowed and did not come close to the number of quick-strike goals allowed by the Flyers.

While it’s difficult to determine exactly why or how quick-strike goals occur, there certainly appears to be a direct correlation to the talent level the team has in net to the amount of quick-strike goals they allow. Given that the total number of goals allowed seems to play no factor in a teams final quick-strike number, it's fair to make the argument that the goaltender greatly impacts the quick-strike number. In the case of Philadelphia, their regular season total was very low, but their quick-strike number was very high. As a comparison, the Calgary Flames regular season total was very high, but their quick-strike number was very low, whereas a team like the Boston Bruins had very low totals in both categories. That's something that needs to be taken into account when evaluating why quick-strike goals happen.

Because the study is based solely on a single season, no definitive conclusion can truly be made. But with the Flyers acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov, there is now a baseline to test the theory at the conclusion of next season. The only fact that can be taken away from this year’s study is that the quick-strike goal is a phenomena that occurs on a regular basis, and that the Philadelphia Flyers allowed it to happen more than anyone else in the league.

 

For any questions about the study, please feel free to comment below or e-mail me at mattbrigidi@gmail.com

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@mattbrigidi

8 Comments

Jordan Kuhns's picture

Mindblown. From the perspective of no stats in front of me, and if I remember back to the season, I can see exactly where these numbers come from. Perhaps you could (subjectively) tie in that they had an attitude about them this year, and thus, the correction. But again, that's just subjectivity. Excellent work. Now you can sit back and relax.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I think it's a safe assessment to say that attitude is involved. The hardest part, as you know, is proving that. From our perspective we watched it first hand and could see that something wasn't right. Ultimately it's probably a combination of things as is anything, but this goaltending trend is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Adam Pardes's picture

I'd be curious to see when these goals were scored calender-wise. Think you could make a Quick-Strike vs. Time graph?

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I'm sorry that I didn't include that in the post. I hope this will do:

October: Seven
November: Nine
December: 11
January: 11
February: 12
March: 13
April: Five

All of these instances are 'Against'

***EDIT: The above instances in this comment are not individual goals; They are occurrences. The above numbers don't include the instances when consecutive goals were scored. Whenever a consecutive instance occurs you need to add two goals rather than one.

Adam Pardes's picture

Not a problem, I was just wondering if it was worse in the second half when they sucked (which apparently it was).

John Saquella's picture

Stellar work, Matt. Well worth the small forest that had to die for the research.

Mark Trible's picture

This is spectacular stuff. Great job, Matt!

George Prax's picture

What this hipster said. Great work buddy boy.