Philadelphia Flyers: 2015/16 Season Review – Line 2


Having reviewed some of the underlying advanced stats, here’s a brief overview of what went on with the Philadelphia Flyers 2nd Line last season.

  • Sean Couturier is a beast. He took on by far the worst defensive assignments, turned out positive possession statistics and scored at a higher even strength rate than Claude Giroux.
  • Michael Raffl had surprisingly sheltered zone starts, but all things considered was a very good second line NHL forward.
  • Matt Read has now been replaced by Raffl as Couturier’s right-hand man, and looking at his stats for the last two years it seems as though he may be suited to a third line role.

As I explained last time I’ve taken the 411 forwards in the NHL that played 30+ games last season, and divided them into 4 groups. These groups roughly correspond to what line each player played on, and were based on average ice time per game. It’s not perfect, but it is simple and I think it gives us a pretty decent look at where the Philadelphia Flyers could improve.

Couturier and Company

Aside from Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier is the Philadelphia Flyers’ most valuable player. He may even surpass Giroux in terms of value soon (or perhaps he already did). Sean’s most common linemate was Michael Raffl, Read was paired with him third most and Wayne Simmonds was second.

Simmonds is here merely as a reference point as he played more minutes with Giroux on the first line, and was analyzed as such in the first article. It does make sense to note that one of Simmonds, Schenn, or Voracek would have likely been playing with Couturier on any given night (more oft than not it was Simmonds). So the 2nd line wouldn’t have been quite as bleak as it looks here. For our purposes, though I’ll be looking at Couturier – Raffl – Read as the second line purely based on their average ice time.

AVG NHL LINE 237.848.41.741.7011.150.7100.252.0
AVG NHL LINE 321.152.81.362.199.449.199.446.5

Couturier has cemented himself as a noteworthy shutdown defensive center. His 39 points in just 63 games provided the Philadelphia Flyers with a very strong base for a second line. Prorated over a full season (82 games) Couturier would have scored 50 points which is exceptional for a 2nd line player. Sean’s most common linemate this season was complimentary winger Michael Raffl who scored 31 points, and Matt Read who scored 26 points is the last member of this group.

Forming most of the second Powerplay group these three were poor this season with the man advantage. It’s been an area of concern for years in the media. When you see that Couturier, and Read both had 7 points with the man advantage though it doesn’t look so bad compared to the league average 8.4 PPP for second line players. Concerns about a second powerplay unit are unimportant to be honest because the first PP unit was one of the best in the entire NHL. Any man advantage goals scored by the second PP are gravy.

Sean Couturier scored at a higher rate than Claude Giroux at even strength.

Where Couturier rose above the title of defensive center is in points per 60 minutes at even strength (PP60). His 1.99 PP60 was first line quality and ranked above Giroux’s 1.92 PP60. Sean Couturier scored at a higher rate than Claude Giroux at even strength. That’s an amazing stat. Raffl’s 1.64 was fairly close to the AVG NHL LINE 2 forward so that checks out, but Read’s 1.18 PP60 was a disappointment.

This group stayed far away from the penalty box as they were all among the better Philadelphia Flyers in penalty minutes per 60 (PIM60). They were very much involved in killing off penalties taken by others so that seems appropriate. All three also shot under the AVG NHL LINE 2 forward shooting percentage of 11.1%. Couturier’s 9.2% was in line with his career average of 9%, and Raffl was under his average of 11.7% as he shot at 9.8%. Again Matt Read’s results are the most concerning.

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For the first three seasons of his career, Matt Read scored at a rather fantastical rate; 15% of his shots went in. Read did that without the aid of much 1st unit PP time which makes the number even crazier. Over the last two seasons, however, a now 30-year-old Matt Read has scored on just 7% of his shots (5.6% last year – 8.7% this year). It looks as though he may have lost his scoring touch.

The funny thing is it doesn’t appear Read has lost a step as his shots for/against ratio (SF%) was the highest on the team (53.1%) aside from Nick Cousins (54%)*. So despite the decrease in scoring Read is still pushing the puck up the ice and creating more opportunities than he’s giving up. Couturier and Raffl were also on the positive side of the possession game with the Philadelphia Flyers taking 51.3%, and 51.2% of the shorts with them on the ice.

*I incorrectly stated Simmonds had the best SF% (52.2) in my last article. My bad!

Couturier and Raffl had a bit of a lucky year in terms of PDO (combined shooting and save percentage while on the ice). They had ratings over 101, and because of their relatively low shooting percentages we can assume Mason and Neuvirth were boasting quite high save percentages while those two were on the ice. That can be viewed as lucky, Mason/Neuvirth providing above average goaltending, or as these two playing smart defensive hockey. It’s probably a good mix of all three.

Philadelphia Flyers
An aging Matt Read appears to be trending in wrong direction. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Somewhat contrary to his pushing the play in the right direction, Matt Read somehow had a team worst 97.6 PDO. Clearly, things have been going wrong with Read on the ice as all of his most common linemates had positive PDO ratings. Considering his shooting percentage was 8.7% his PDO should have been right around 100 if players around him had ratings of 101 with slightly higher SH%. That just wasn’t the case. Shifting Read permanently into the bottom-6 group of forwards may be a good move. If Read can shoulder a similar offensive zone start rate (OZS) of 47.8% and play in a third line shutdown role he would still hold value as a defensive player.

Despite his role as Couturier’s most common linemate Michael Raffl was surprisingly sheltered in terms of zone starts (53.1% OZS). Raffl was being plucked for guys like Read, Simmonds, or even Ryan White / P.E. Bellemare in defensive face-off situations. A lot of that probably has to do with Hakstol wanting to have two centermen on the ice for fear of one being kicked out of a draw.

Next: Understanding the Philadelphia Flyers' Draft Tendencies

Finally, the fact that Couturier can start just 44.6% of shifts in the offensive zone while playing as a positive possession player, and scores at a higher even strength clip than Claude Giroux is just phenomenal.

Next time I’ll have an analysis of the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3rd Line.. which probably should have been a 4th Line… Ryan WhiteChris VandeVelde – P.E. Bellemare.