Better With Popcorn

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.

                                                 First Period



                                                Second Period


                                                 Third Period



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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Matt Bernot's picture

The problem is, this shot chart also proves $51 million and 5.67 cap hit with an NMC on a goalie is therefore a waste. If the goalie isn't going to work, then you don't need an epic goaltender...

George Prax's picture

I agree with you, especially when there was a goalie like Tomas Vokoun out there taking a tenth of the term and a fraction of the money. The Flyers needed an upgrade in goal, but they didn't need to break the bank. That said, 93 games without a shutout is completely ridiculous.

Adam Pardes's picture

It's a shot chart from one game. The only defenseman who changed from last year's squad is Lilja (instead of O'Donnell as the #6 spot), so if your logic holds, then the Flyers would have given up the fewest goals in the NHL last year and won the Cup. The bottom line is bad goals still got through, and Bryzgalov has already proved that he's capable of making the crucial saves that no Flyers netminder has been able to make the past couple decades. All fans have complained about is the lack of an elite goalie -- now they have one, high price tag or not.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I agree with you Adam, with both of your points. This chart merely displays were shots were registered. As you stated below, plenty of other activity occurred during each play, some more than others.

Ultimately, I believe the main point is that bad goals got through last year. Thus far, Bryzgalov hasn't allowed any. From looking back on the games I tracked last year, this shot chart substantiates how the goalies last year let down the defense by allowing soft goals.

In regards to the Vokoun argument, Neuvirth started over him in Washington's first game. Kind of defeats the purpose of signing a number one goalie if he's sitting on the bench, doesn't it?

George Prax's picture

He signed there to split time with Neuvirth (and maybe even Holtby). The Caps have a competitive group of goaltenders that can push each other and that's a good thing. Bryzgalov isn't there to push Bobrovsky or vice versa. Bryz has to be the #1 no matter how he plays because of his contract. And I'm not saying he's not good, he's a great goaltender, but for the money they spent there could have been other options. It's just that the Flyers tend to go to the extreme when they decide to fix something and it usually doesn't end up panning out in the long term. Maybe I'm wrong, just saying though.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I completely agree with you to that point. Any one who is kidding themselves into believing last year was the beginning of the goalie carousel in Philadelphia hasn't been following the Flyers for the last 14 years. The team ignored the goalie position for too long and forced themselves into a corner. Whether they had other options is another discussion that I myself am not educated enough in (but I believe Adam is, he wrote that phenominal piece on possible options) but if they team can continue to grow from what we've seen in preseason and two regular season games then the move may validate itself.

Matt Bernot's picture

What goalie problem? Since the lockout the Flyers have had a "starting goalie" with the exception of 06-07 when the whole team was terrible?

From 07-08 and 08-09 Martin Biron was the #1 goalie, and he was a top 10 goalie in the league over that time frame. This isn't disputable.

In 2009-10, Ray Emery was the number one goalie, but he ended up on LTIR, Boucher, Leighton and Backlund also at some point or another that season all ended up on IR as well.

In 2010-11 Sergei Bobrovsky was a pretty good goalie for a 22yr old rookie with 0 games North American experience.

2011-12 should have been Bob as the starter with Vokoun on a 2yr ~1.75M deal as well mentoring him with Bob getting 45 starts and Vokoun 37.

There is no goalie problem, there hasn't been a goalie problem since 03-04 (Jeff Hackett's injury)

I don't get and never will get this "goalie problem" in Philly because the results prove there was no goalie problem.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

The goalie problem is exactly what you have just listed. There has been no consistency at all and each year brings a new man to stand in net.

And to your point about Biron, what characteristics are you using to define him as a top 10 goaltender? Upon looking at the stats from 07-08 and 08-09 I wouldn't be as confident as you in saying that it is indisputable. I think it's very disputable.

Adam Pardes's picture

Perfectly put, Matt. And on top of that, it's not fair to assume the Flyers could've sign Vokoun for the term and money he took in Washington. In all honesty, there were significantly less goalie jobs available by the time he signed with the Caps.

Furthermore, I'm not sure why people are so against long-term contracts. The Flyers signed an elite goaltender for nine years...isn't that good news? With LTIR, it's not like an injury completely ruins the team's roster/cap situation.

And it's not like Bob is the end all be all of the Flyers goalie future. They signed Hovinen last year (who is off to a great start in Europe) and I'm pretty sure Kovar's rights still belong to the Flyers too. Plus they Bacashushu or whatever is name is out of college too. Bottom line, there's options for the future.

As for now, I'm pretty damn happy with Bryz. After years of complaining about the lack of a star netminder, I (like Ed Snider) am willing to accept the price tag that comes along with the talent.

George Prax's picture

You guys are allowed to be happy with Bryz and he's given you reason to be so far, all I'm saying is that it may have been too much. You're going to have to be happy with him for the next nine years, like it or not, and that's impossible when it comes to goaltenders. Look at the top 10 in the league right now, almost all of them have struggled. Luongo, Price, Thomas, Fleury, many of these guys can go from being their franchise's savior one night, to the bane of their existence the next. And the Flyers are the type of team tend to do things on a much shorter scale than 9 years, regardless of the contracts they give out. Unlike Carter and Richards and all those other guys though, if it doesn't work out in 2 years, it's going to be much harder to mess with the foundation with Bryzgalov.

But I'm somewhere in the middle on this. I don't agree with the Bryzgalov contract, but at the same time, the Flyers weren't exactly fine with that list of backup goaltenders mentioned above. If all those goalies were fine, how come none of them are NHL starters anymore?

Matt Bernot's picture

By "high turnover" logic, there's no stability at center because the Flyers top center changes on a game to game basis.

Next up EV SV%, Biron was 9th (Among goalies <50 starts) in 07-08 thereby making him a top 10 goalie, he was 13th by my count (same criteria) in 08-09...that's a strong goalie. No other way around it. Split the difference, he was 11th.

Goaltender's do NOT win cups, only 3 times since the Vezina went to its current format has the Vezina winner also won the Stanley Cup, three times in roughly 30 years, That's slightly above 10%. 10% is not a trend, it's a narrative. It's bad science to say "top level goaltenders" win Cups because the best goalie doesn't usually win the Cup. 90% is always greater than 10%.

Next up, it was John Stevens fault Biron burned out in the playoffs, in 07-08 Biron played in 17 of 18 games going into the playoffs (16 starts), had Stevens not burned him out, maybe Biron has something in the tank for the ECF in 08. If Timonen and Coburn don't get hurt, Flyers probably win that series as might have won the 08 Cup

Same basic thing happened in 09, John Stevens burned out Biron going into the playoffs (I haven't counted the exact games yet). This isn't Biron's fault, it's John Stevens.

Biron was horribly underrated as a goalie because he was stuck in Buffalo between a Future Hall of Fame goalie in Hasek and probably Hall of Fame goalie in Ryan Miller.

Biron was quite literally set up to fail by his coach.

There is no carousel because the carousel was half injury related (09-10, 05-06 both featured multiple goalies on IR/LTIR) and the other half was the fact the organization couldn't draft and properly develop their own goalie (Brian Boucher, Jacob DeSerres, Antero Niittymaki)

It could have been Emery had he not been injured, it could have been Leighton had he not been injured.

It should be Bobrovsky because there's no reason why he wouldn't be improving. Bobrovsky played well as a rookie with 0 North American experience.

I will say it right now, the Flyers are NOT winning the Cup this year, there's just a more expensive Nashville/Buffalo/Boston.

Boston only won a Cup because Tim Thomas re-wrote the record books, without Thomas rewriting it, Boston probably gets bounced in round 1 by MTL

Matthew Brigidi's picture

Having the 9th best even strength save percentage with 50 or more games in a single season does not mean that you are an indisputable top ten goalie. It means you are in the top ten of a statistical category. Huge difference.

Matt Bernot's picture

Even Strength SV% is the best indicator of how good a goalie is, by being 9th in the best (and therefore most important category) yes, Biron is a top 10 goalie.

Adam Pardes's picture

Goalies don't win Cups? Maybe not ever year they don't, but Thomas, Ward, etc. would like to disagree with you. Don't have to be a Vezina winner to make the difference in the postseason.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

I understand your stance on it. When I asked Justin Goldman, head of The Goalie Guild ( what he thought of the charts he told me this:

"Yes, Bryzgalov playing behind Pronger and company is a dream come true. It should be a very good year for him statistically. Scoring chances are a crucial part of understanding a goalie's stats.

But even more important is the goalie's mindset. Even though these are routine shots for Bryzgalov to stop, his focus is being tested more than his technique and skills. So it is still a challenge."

It was very apparent that our goalies didn't always stop shots they should have last season. Bryzgalov has thus far

Adam Pardes's picture

Really impressive (and promising) results. Other important thing to note is that even a shot from the side boards or point can be dangerous if the goalie is screened. Therefore, just because they'd be easy saves to make with no traffic in front, doesn't mean that Bryz didn't have to make some quality stops.