Flyers: Can the Orange and Black Fix Their Poor Shot Differential?

Hart save v Sabres

The Flyers have been outshot in every game this season. This is a concerning trend that dates back to last year’s playoffs. The Flyers are currently in a three-way tie for third in the Eastern Division with seven points and a record of 3-2-1. However, they have yet to record more shots on goal than any of their opponents.

The 2021 season started out as good as the Flyers could expect. Their depth in scoring and on the blue line made us media types salivate asking if they could make a run this year. They started the season by sweeping the hated Pittsburgh Penguins in a two-game set, scoring eleven goals. In fact, they made the Penguins look mediocre. Sure, Sidney Crosby had two goals against the Orange and Black, however other than that, the Penguins superstars seemed pedestrian at best. Penguin media and fans started to question on Twitter if keeping, Tristan Jarry over Matt Murray was a wise choice.

Yes, the first two games were great for us Flyers fans. However, then the injuries to Sean Couturier and Phil Myers would challenge the Flyers’ depth. They started getting outplayed, which you could argue they were outplayed by the Penguins at times. The Flyers only won since starting the season 2-0, and the lack of shots became a topic of conversation.

Comparing Shot Totals Between Seasons

Last season, the Flyers were the stingiest team in allowing shots on goal. They only allowed 1977 shots in the shortened 69 game season, which as noted above, was the least amount of shots to find their goal in the NHL. This was due to solid defense and their ability to block shots. The Flyers weren’t setting the world on fire offensively in terms of their own shots. They recorded 2166 shots on goal, which ranked them 21st in the NHL.

The start of the 2021 season has not fared the same in terms of the shot differential. The Flyers have been outshot in all six games for a total of 213-143. They rank 29th in the league for shots allowed and 23rd in the league in shots for. So that begs the question, what caused the change?

In 2019-2020, the Flyers were outshot in 26 of the 69 games. The crazy part is that they managed to win 18 of those 26 games. They had a better winning percentage when they trailed in shots. That isn’t the best recipe for success. Could the fact that they had such a high winning percentage while having a lower shot total than their opponent, made the team comfortable having a negative shot advantage? I don’t have that answer.

Did the Covid-19 Shutdown Shoot Down the Flyers Momentum?

Yes, the Flyers were rolling into the Playoffs. They were on a tear and it was pretty certain that with 13 games to go, the Flyers would be one of the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division. Thanks for nothing Covid.

So as they entered the bubble in Toronto, something changed. The Flyers were no longer the stingiest team in terms of letting up shots.

Through the play-in round, the Flyers were only outshot by the Bruins, having won all three games. They then played the Canadians where the Habs outshot the Flyers 178-149 in the six-game series. Following that series, they took on the Islanders and it was more of the same. In this seven-game series, the Flyers were outshot 236 to 204. This time they were still able to pull off two wins while being out-shot. It wasn’t until game seven that the shot difference bit the Flyers in the butt. In a winner take all game seven, the Islanders had a 26-16 shot advantage en route to their 4-0 series-clinching victory.

I am not blaming Covid for this sudden change…

I lied- I am totally blaming Covid for the sudden change. The bubble is where we saw this trend of not only getting outshot but not having quality scoring chances.

2021 Start Isn’t as Bad as the Boston Beat Down Suggests

Sure, both of the Flyers’ regulation losses were 6-1 drubbing. In both games, they appeared to be out-hustled and outplayed. They were outshot 33-20 versus the Buffalo Sabres and then again 26-17 versus the Bruins. Understand that being outshot is not the end of the world as last season suggests, however it is that at times the Flyers go long stretches without putting one in on the net that can really change the momentum of the game.

Despite being outshot in all six games, the Flyers are still 3-2-1, which is a game better than their start last season. Tonight, they travel up the turnpike to take on the New Jersey Devils. The Devils also hold a negative shot advantage on the season, being outshot 178-136. Tonight is the time for Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s team to get their offense going again. Look for the Flyers to get off to a fast start.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre