Shot Selection Study 10-8-11: Flyers Shut Down Devils
One major concern for this season's Philadelphia Flyers is replacing goal scoring. The concern is understandable given the loss of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, forwards who scored a combined total of 78 goals in 2010-11, which composed 30% of the Flyers total offense.
With the movement of those players came the addition of gritty forwards like Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot and Jakub Voracek, in addition to a bon-a-fide number one goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov. The organization actively tried to change their strategic philosophy from an offensive-minded juggernaut to a physically imposing defensive team with speed.
In Saturday night’s 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils it was abundantly clear that the new philosophy was in full effect.
The above shot charts are representations of the shots registered by New Jersey. The Devils amassed a total of 20 shots Saturday; seven in the first, ten in the second and three in the third.
When looking at the charts it's important to take note of the circled area between the two face-off circles. That area is called the slot and is a high-scoring area. It's critical for defensemen to keep the area clear for several reasons, most importantly to limit close range shots and screens.
What's apparent from these charts is the Devils didn't register a shot from the slot on Saturday. Even more impressive is that the Devils only attempted five shots from inside the face-off circles. That means the defense forced New Jersey to the outside causing the majority of their shots to come from the perimeter, which are typically lower percentage shots.
While last night’s shut out is an accomplishment for Bryzgalov, it's also a testament to the Flyers defense. They played a disciplined defensive game and wore down the Devils. Their play helped record the franchise’s first shutout since April 6, 2010, ending a regular season drought of 85 games.
Bryzgalov not only stopped all 20 shots he faced on Saturday but has also stopped 42 of 43 shots faced this season. He has currently gone a little over 110 minutes of game time without allowing a goal.
Last year, the Flyers goaltending would allow soft goals on shots that seemingly should have been saved. But two games in with Bryzgalov and soft goals look to be minimized.
Bryzgalov’s old team, the Coyotes, might have to get used to it moving forward.
“If there was any question whether or not the Coyotes would miss Ilya Bryzgalov,” Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area correspondent Kevin Kurz tweeted, “[Phoenix goaltender] Mike Smith has allowed two softies.”
It's still too early to determine what this team will be capable of this season. What can be said thus far is that the organization’s plan looks poised to play out the way they hoped it would. The team is strong, fast, and defensively disciplined. Simmonds, Read and Couturier are developing roles and Claude Giroux is continuing where he left off last season.
With the Flyers playing the way they have, goal scoring may quickly become a concern of the past.
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