The Flyers are off to a good start, with many interesting story lines. But one that needs to be talked about more is the Flyers stifling third period defense.
The Flyers season started on Thursday, and they've already beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions and gotten their first shutout in 85 games. Ilya Bryzgalov has a 0.977 save percentage, Claude Giroux has 2 goals, and the Flyers are undefeated. There is good news all around.
Obviously, Bryzgalov isn't going to maintain a 0.977 save percentage, Giroux isn't going to score 82 goals, and the Flyers will eventually lose a game. It doesn't matter though, since two games isn't enough to draw conclusions in either direction. There's good news and bad news, obviously, and almost all of it tells us very little.
But there is one area that deserves talking about, and it's something that is getting lost in the talk about Matt Read's first NHL goal, the Flyers' first shutout in over a season, Sean Couturier's impressive start, and Blair Betts' return from waivers.
That area is the Flyers' third period defense.
Frank Seravalli of the Daily News touched on this in this morning's paper:
By Laviolette's count, the Flyers allowed just five scoring chances in the third period against Boston despite being outshot, 11-4. Four of the shots came on the Bruins' power play.
On Saturday, Bryzgalov faced just 20 shots. By our count, only six of them were scoring chances. And three of those came in the first 20 minutes, meaning the Flyers battened down and allowed just three scoring chances the remaining 40 minutes.
Now, scoring chances are one of those things that everybody talks about during the games (they are shown on TV, afterall) but can't be found. Why CSN chooses not to publish this information, why Philly.com fails to publish Seravalli's counting, or even why the NHL doesn't track these when all their teams do, is a whole other debate.
But thankfully, Broad Street Hockey's ToddtheFox is tracking them this season (after tracking them at the end of last season). His numbers diverge from Seravalli's by a lot for the Devils game, but there's only one difference between his and Laviolette's for the third period against Boston.
In either event, according to Broad Street Hockey, the Flyers have given up one even-strength scoring chance in the third period this year. It came on a turnover at the blueline.
On the road, the Flyers faced the defending Stanley Cup Champions and a tough New Jersey Devils team. They entered the third period in both games up by only a goal. But they stifled both squads, not allowing New Jersey a single scoring chance in the third period - not even on their one power play opportunity - and only allowing Boston the one even-strength chance.
Just like Giroux's current 82-goal pace and Bryzgalov's 0.977 save percentage, the Flyers aren't going to hold teams to 41 third period scoring chances all year. Maybe the Devils aren't a very good team this year - though I am not alone in thinking they are - and it's possible the lack of a scoring chance was less the Flyers' ability and more the Devils inability.
But so far, with largely the same defense as last year, the Flyers are making Ilya Bryzgalov look even better than we know he is. This bodes very well for the future, as a top-10 goaltender paired with a stifling defense usually wins a lot of games.