Beginning with my familiar approach, let’s take a look at both Richards and Carter’s average ice time from last season per nhl.com:
|Player||Games Played||ES TOI/Game||Team Rank||PP TOI/Game||Team Rank||SH TOI/Game||Team Rank||Total TOI/G||Team Rank|
Unsurprisingly, we see that both guys gave the Flyers a good chunk of minutes in all situations. With the exception of Carter’s reduced role on the PK thanks to the emergence of Darroll Powe, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was not afraid to send out either player when he felt he needed a boost in any particular area of the ice. In order to give these minutes their proper context, we will begin by looking into where both players stacked up amongst Flyer forwards in point production, once again thanks to nhl.com:
|Player||ES G (Team Rank)||ES A (Team Rank)||ES Pts (Team Rank)||PP G (Team Rank)||PP A (Team Rank)||PP Pts (Team Rank)|
|Richards||15 (T-5)||24 (4)||39 (6)||5 (T-4)||16 (1)||21 (1)|
|Carter||28 (T-1)||21 (5)||49 (3)||8 (1)||9 (T-3)||17 (3)|
As we can see, both players seemed to match their top-6 ice time with top-6 scoring numbers both at even strength and on the power play. If we take a look at a few more key statistics according to Behind the Net and Time on Ice, it will become quite apparent why Richards and Carter are so good at what they do:
|Player||Corsi ON||CorsiRel||Score-Tied Fenwick %||CorsiRelQoC||SF/60||Zone Start %||Zone Finish %|
Breaking these numbers down, beginning with Richards, his negative Corsi score is perhaps the first thing that stands about his totals. However, if we judge his performance according to Eric T.’s Balanced Corsi, we see that according to his zone start he is actually around 3 shots better per 60 minutes than we might expect. His balanced zone shift is also a little higher than we might expect, and if we couple this data with his extremely impressive 53.6% Fenwick with the score tied, there is a lot here to suggest that Richards is carrying the water at even strength.
Moving to Carter, his totals are just as impressive. Carter actually was put in tougher defensive spots than Richards, and his Corsi ON score is a little more than 4 shots higher per 60 minutes. His Balanced Corsi is around 7 shots higher than what we might expect from a player put in similar situations, and his BZS is around 3 percent to the good. His Fenwick score, though lower than Richards still suggests that he was also doing a major part driving the play forward for the Flyers considering his zone starts.
What is even more impressive is that the above analysis doesn’t even take into account the elephant in the room: quality of competition. Below is a chart of the toughest CorsiRelQoC scores of every player listed as a Center on Behind the Net last season, minimum 20 games played:
Both Richards and Carter show up in the conversation with guys who are playing against some of the toughest players in the league. Though they may not score upwards of 80 points per season, both players are certainly producing at elite levels considering the players that they are expected to face night-in and night-out.
What is more, thanks to JaredL we are able to take a look at how the Flyers performed during the past two seasons with and without either Richards or Carter on the ice:
|Player On-Ice||Corsi/60||Time (mins)||Corsi QoC|
Unsurprisingly, these numbers fall in line with everything else we’ve seen – they were able to send the play in the right direction while eating the majority of the team’s tough-minute assignments. Jared was also kind enough to provide data that looks into how some of the Flyers’ other key players performed in situations both with and excluding one of Richards or Carter on the ice during the same time-frame:
|Player On-Ice||With||Corsi/60||Time (mins)||Corsi QoC|
Once again, we see that no matter the situation, each player was better with one of either Richards or Carter on the ice except for James van Reimsdyk whose data has a noticeable discrepancy in quality of competition. In order for the Flyers to remain one of the premier Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference, it is looking more and more like the big line of JVR, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr is going to be asked to carry the mail against top-tier competition in the absence of Richards and Carter. These numbers seem to suggest that it is certainly possible, but we will have to wait until each plays an adequate number of contests before we can finally say whether Paul Holmgren’s plan will pay off in the long run. So far, the Flyers are off to an excellent start, but Giroux & Co. will have to keep up their play in the absence of what was one of the league's most formidable one-two punches up front.