The Philadelphia Flyers 2016-17 season could be summed up as a season of inconsistencies. They are the first team in NHL history to not make the playoffs after winning ten straight games. However, even though they remained an inconsistent bunch, they were still a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. The team will not deny that they need to become more consistent next season, or next season could end up the same way as this past year’s. There is one area of their game they need to clean up in order to do so however. They need to find a better way to clear their own zone with assertion on a nightly basis.
The Flyers struggled mightily with this during the tail end of December and through the months of January and February. This was one reason why their ten game winning streak came to a grinding halt. Moreover, it is also a reason they finished the month of January with a record of 5-6-2. That is just not good enough to make the playoffs in this league. Playoff caliber teams are normally consistent throughout the year. Winning one and then losing one will not cut it.
Andrew MacDonald was a catalyst who struggled to clear the zone on a nightly basis during the months of December through February. His overall numbers were not too shabby, finishing the year with 2 goals, 16 assists for a total of 18 points, and was -5. However, he struggled with turnovers when he had to clear the puck from his own zone. This led to odd man rushes and breakaways on the goaltenders, thus placing them into really tough situations night in and night out. It really made the Flyers defense look leaky.
For the season, MacDonald had a total of 50 giveaways. This was good for the fourth highest on the team, and it was the 3rd highest total for defenseman. Ivan Provorov had the most giveaways with 81, and Shayne Gostisbehere came in second with 70. This left MacDonald with a .2 TA/GA margin, and Provorov and Gostisbehere each shared a .3 TA/GA margin. However, MacDonald is a ten year veteran in the NHL. It is unfair to contribute this problem to the learning Provorov or Gostisbehere.
The Flyers as a team ranked 18th out of 30 teams with 236 goals against. They scored 219 goals for, giving them a -17 goal differential. Some problems can be contributed to goaltending, but with no clear outlets of the zone this gives the opposition second chance opportunities.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the final Corsi ratings for Flyers defensemen. Second year blueliner Gostisbehere had the highest Corsi rating finishing with 53.7%. To no one’s surprise, MacDonald finished with the worst Corsi Rating for a Flyers defensemen with 48.0%. Although, a Corsi rating is not contributed to takeaways and giveaways. A player with a lower Corsi rating often finds themselves chasing the puck more. It also places the team more often in defensive situations. Simply put, they have to get better in transition next season.
Let’s face it Flyers fans, it was never about this year. It was about the future. These young prospects are going to make mistakes, but they will learn. They will continue to grow as a unit, we just have to remain patient. Veterans like MacDonald have to be better next season to aide the young defensive corps in this area of the game.
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Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports