Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why The Flyers Are Off To A Good Start

Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers were a bad team. They finished last in the league with only 22 wins and 60 losses (12 of those losses were regulation ties). They finished in last place by 9 points. They set out to improve this year by signing free agents Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere. This combined with the already existing youth in the Flyers system (players like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and RJ Umberger) had a team that looked likely to improve. They certainly wouldn't be the worst team in the league again. I didn't pick them to make playoffs, but they should improve.

Ten games into the 2007/08, Flyers lead the Atlantic Division with a 7-3 record. Has their transformation happened that quickly? Have they gone from worst to a contender that quickly? To answer that question, it helps to look at why they are winning.

The Philadelphia Flyers defence has not improved. They have allowed 33.7 shots per game so far this year. That is worse than last year when they allowed 32.6 shots per game. Last year that was the 27th worst mark, this year it drops to 28th. They are also taking less shot on goal so far this season. Last year, they took 28.8 shots per game and this year it is down to 25.9. That is not a sign of a team getting better. So why have they won?

The simple answer is Martin Biron has been outstanding in goal. He has been the best goalie and MVP so far this year. He has a .948 saves percentage while being peppered with lots of shots so far this season. He alone has raised the Flyers saves percentage so far this year by about 50 points. The Flyers are winning because the goaltending has been exceptional. They are not allowing fewer shots, but of those shots they allow almost half of those that went in last season have been saved this season.

There is another strong reason the Flyers have a good record so far this year. They have had an easy schedule. So far this season, teams facing the Flyers have a combined record of 50 wins and 61 losses (with 8 losses counted as regulation ties). That is a poor level of competition. In his initial power rankings, David Johnson lists it as the worst quality of opposition faced by any team in the league. He is not at all impressed by the Flyers. He ranks them 23rd in the league ion the power rankings despite the fact they lead their division.

The Philadelphia Flyers are off to a good start this season. They have done so with outstanding goaltending from Martin Biron. As good as Biron has played, there is little evidence that he can keep this up all season when looking at his past record. They have played against weak competition as well. Likely given tougher competition, they will not have the same success. I don't think they will remain atop the Atlantic Division all season and I doubt they will make the playoffs.

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