In the final 20 minutes (and sometimes more) the Flyers are among the best in the business.
You think playing Flappy Bird is tough? Try playing hockey against the Flyers in a close game in the third period or later.
I know I threw a few of these statistics out there last week, but after the Flyers dramatic 5-4 overtime victory over Washington on Sunday, it’s becoming more and more evident to me that the Flyers are going to win a lot of close games late.
In other words, Flyers opponents, if you want to beat the orange and black, be sure to build a comfortable lead through the first 40 minutes because after that, all bets are off.
I’ll highlight the statistical reasons why in a moment, but first I want to look at why they are such a good team in the third period.
We really started noticing this around the holidays, and thought that maybe coach Craig Berube’s commitment to a harder, faster skating regiment might have had something to do with it.
Then, we examined his propensity to use his fourth line more than Flyers teams have been used to. It keeps the top players more fresh as the game goes on and they ultimately end up being more productive later in games than earlier in games.
And while both may actually have an impact, the reason the Flyers are so successful late in games has a lot more to do with their character and desire to win than anything else.
How else do you explain such clutch numbers as the Flyers are posting this season?
The Flyers have scored 70 third period goals this season, second most in the NHL. Add in a pair of overtime tallies and of those 72 goals, 46 have either tied the game, given the Flyers the lead, or were an insurance goal (two-goal lead). Believe it or not, comparatively to the rest of the NHL, that’s a very good number.
Since Nov. 8, in which the Flyers are 28-14-5 in 47 games, the Flyers have dominated their opponents in the third period and overtime, outscoring them 66-43 in that period.
We’ve already made mention of the franchise record 11 wins when trailing in the third period (the NHL record is 15 by the way, by the 2005-06 Dallas Stars) but the Flyers also have notched seven victories this season when trailing after two periods, tied for most in the NHL.
Individually, a dozen different skaters have registered a tying, go-ahead or insurance goal in the third period this season – which, heretofore will be referred to as “clutch time” because any time a game is tied or within a goal in the third period, the players who make the difference usually come up big in the clutch.
Claude Giroux has 10 such goals. That’s 47.6 percent of his goals. By comparison, Alex Ovechkin of Washington,
|Claude Giroux (middle) and Scott Hartnell (right) have had a lot to celebrate in the third period this season.|
who leads the NHL with 43 goals, has 12 such scores, or just 27.9 percent of his tallies coming in clutch time.
Giroux isn’t alone though.
Scott Hartnell has seven “clutch” goals out of 15 (46.7%) and Vinny Lecavalier has seven of 14 (50%).
It’s not just on the offensive end though.
While the Flyers are relentless with their third period play, they are getting a strong effort in net from Steve Mason as well.
Mason has allowed just 32 third period-or-later goals in 43 games this season that he’s played in the third period, or later.
His goals against average in the third period and overtime is 2.22 as compared to his season GAA of 2.57.
Meanwhile his third period and overtime save percentage is .926 as compared to his full season save percentage of .915.
The Flyers are 6-2-0 in the last eight games Mason has played and in those eight games Mason has allowed just two third period goals.
And the numbers don’t just suggest the Flyers are a good come-from-behind team or a good team when the game is tied after two periods, but they are also excellent with the lead.
Since that magical date of Nov. 8 (Giroux scored his first goal of the season in the very next game after it) the Flyers are 17-0-4 when leading after two periods.
Regardless the situation, the Flyers seem to know how to play when the game is on the line in the final 20 minutes.
Whether it’s playing from behind, or protecting the lead, the third period has become the Flyers time to shine.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers