On Their Own Level

A lot of us have been used to sustained success in that the Flyers play at a playoff level almost every year. We are used to thinking the Flyers play on a higher level than at least half of the league. This is not the case this season, and it’s something to which most of us have become accustomed. Some of us haven’t gotten there yet, though.

Let’s pull one particular excerpt out of that column that caught our eye:

“For much of the season, the Flyers have played too many games without urgency, without an edge. Oh, they get up for the Penguins and some other marquee opponents, but have a penchant for playing down to weaker teams.”

Let’s address the “playing down to weaker teams” comment. First off, that implies the Flyers natural level of play is high; it’s so high in fact that there are nine teams in front of them in the playoff race in the much weaker Eastern Conference. As points go, the Flyers are ninth worst team in the league, ranked twenty-second in overall points. Second of all, it implies the Flyers come down from their lofty ivory tower of stellar play to meet “bad teams” (of which they are most obviously NOT one of, apparently) in the dirt and grime of incompetence only lottery-bound teams know.

If the Flyers truly did play on some heightened level while they played the best teams and stooped while they played bad teams, then we can reasonably surmise that their results against both “good teams” and “bad teams” would be the same, as they are playing each team on their own level for the night. Let’s define “good teams” as teams going to the playoffs as of now, and “bad teams” as teams not going to the playoffs as of now. To eliminate the designation of “bad” and “good” in the Western Conference (where two teams who are out of the playoffs currently have a higher point total than the eighth-seed Bruins), we’ll look at the Flyers’ results against their much more common foes, the Eastern Conference.

The good teams: Montreal, Boston, Tampa Bay, Detroit, NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Washington

Flyers’ record against good teams: Montreal (0-1-2), Boston (0-2-0), Tampa Bay (1-2-0), Detroit (1-1-0), NY Islanders (0-1-2), Pittsburgh (2-0-0), NY Rangers (0-3-0), Washington (2-1-0)
Totals (21 games played): 6-11-4, 16 points, .76 points earned a game, -16 goal differential (48-64)

So again, if the Flyers are playing down to bad teams, they should be earning about three-quarters of a point a game against them and have a goal differential of around four given up to three scored.
The bad teams: Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, New Jersey, Toronto, Carolina, Buffalo
Flyers’ record against bad teams: Florida (0-1-1), Ottawa (1-0-0), Columbus (1-2-2), New Jersey (1-2-0), Toronto (2-0-0), Carolina (1-1-0), Buffalo (2-0-1)
Totals (18 games played): 8-6-4, 20 points, 1.11 points earned a game, +1 goal differential (50-49)

Uh oh.

As you can clearly see, the Flyers perform (predictably and significantly) better against other non-playoff teams and worse against playoff-bound teams from the Eastern Conference.

Let’s face it: the Flyers don’t play on some esteemed level only glimpsed by the elite teams. They are a bad team. They have been a bad team most of the year, and they’ll finish the year a bad team most likely. Any talk of them “playing down” is nonsense; this is the low level at which they play because it’s the level at which they’re capable of playing. To believe otherwise is to be delusional, and that, as they say, is no bull.

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