Under the previous regime of Peter Laviolette the Flyers relied on setting up in the offensive zone through the use of dump and chase. The premise is pretty simple. Get the puck deep into the opponent’s zone then use the fore-check to retain puck possession. The Flyers used this strategy to great success during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2010. The success of this strategy, however, waned after that year’s playoff success and the Flyers ended up with their worst record since the 2006 season, going 23–22–3. It was only the ninth time the Flyers did not qualify for the NHL playoffs.
Fast forward to 3 games into the 2013/14 season and the Flyers rid themselves of Peter Laviolette after an 0-3 start. Flyers fans were confused, angry, and worried about the future of their beloved team. In came assistant coach Craig Berube who promised a change in approach. He was tired of the Flyers taking unnecessary penalties and seemed to want to rid the the Flyers of their tough guy label.
“We have to stop taking penalties,” Berube said, “It’s been an issue in this organization for too long. It’s got to get better.”
Berube also pointed out that the Flyers needed to utilize their team speed.
Craig Berube on HC Central at noon: “We’re not in the 70s & 80s anymore. This is a skating era. We need to skate harder. It’s about speed.”
— Matt Brigidi (@mattbrigidi) October 7, 2013
In my head I read that quote like this, “We need to use our team speed to retain puck possession and stop relying on the opposing team to turn the puck over in their own zone when we dump it in.” This all sounded great but failed to yield positive results. The Flyers still sputtered to a 4-10-1 start despite all the talk of a fresh perspective but then something wonderful happened.
The Flyers began using their speed to keep puck possession, get better scoring chances, and help their defensemen by back checking. This has led to a 7 game point streak in which the Flyers have averaged 3.8 GF and 1.4 GA. The Flyers Fenwick For %, which measures scoring chances based on shots taken that reach the net, has been 52.7%. What this means is that the Flyers are getting 52.7% of their scoring chances at even strength. This is compared to the previous 15 games in which the Flyers were only able to muster a FF% of 49.3. Below is the Flyers FF% in their last 7 games.
Teams that can sustain a high Fenwick percentage tend to be out playing their opposition at a high level. It is also a good indicator of puck possession. It’s a pretty simple concept to understand in that the when you have the puck under your control you don’t give up as many scoring chances and you don’t spend as much time in your own zone. This leads to more shots which then leads to better scoring chances, and you can see where I am going with this.
Now, the Flyers are still going to lose games this season, that’s a certainty. What the Flyers can’t stand to go back to is the tired concept of giving away puck possession to create scoring chances hence why I am thrilled to see the death of the dump and chase.
As always, please send all your hate mail to bear[dot]canney[at]gmail[dot]com and your angry tweets @BcanneyBSB.
Graph information provided by ExtraSkater.com
Graph provided by me and my incredible Excel skills.