Flyers Have Luckiest Line in the NHL

In hockey, luck can best be understood through advanced analytics. It isn’t called luck, but rather PDO, named after an Edmonton Oilers blogger who came up with the idea to try and mirror baseball luck stat. He managed this by adding the shooting percentage of a player’s team while he’s on the ice to his team’s save percentage while he’s on the ice. One is the median, and every number should be pretty close to that. If it rises above one, it means a player has been luckier than not. If it drops below, luck isn’t on their side.

Watching the Philadelphia Flyers, you might have thought their top line has been the luckiest this season. It’s a good guess, but it’s also wrong. Though the top line has the team’s top three point producers, it’s the second line that has been the luckiest. PDO isn’t 100 percent based on luck, there is some skill involved, and elite players can create some of their own luck, but for pretty much everyone else, this is accurate.

Farabee, Brassard, Atkinson Getting the Bounces

The Flyers’ second line features Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard, and Cam Atkinson.

Joel Farabee

Farabee continues to produce after his breakout season in 2020-21, and a 16.4 shooting percentage (S%). That number may not be sustainable the more he plays, but after 10 games this season, it looks like he might be a more accurate shooter than most.

Farabee has only taken 16 shots through 10 games, but with three goals, he has a better S% than last season with an 18.8. He has a 14.2 S% in his career, so his ability to get to the high-danger areas to get good scoring chances is better than most. What gives him such a high number. His PDO is the lowest on his line but is still the third-highest of any player to play more than three games this season. His team’s on-ice S% when he’s on the ice is .169, while the team’s save percentage (SV%), while he’s on the ice is .964, to equal 1.133. This number is well above most players, and we may see this stat drop throughout the season. But then again, in some seasons, everything goes right for some players.

Derick Brassard

Brassard has stepped into the flyers’ second line and performed very well in an elevated role while Kevin Hayes recovers from injury. Though some of his success is due to luck, that doesn’t take away from what he’s accomplished and how he’s managing to get into the right position, offensively and defensively.

Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers
Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His 915-game sample size is much larger than Farabee’s short time in the NHL, and this season, Brassard’s S% is almost double his career average. That means his S% is bound to go down, and his PDO along with it. This season, he has two goals on only 10 shots in 10 games, which is a small sample size. In a full season, Brassard has reached the high-100s in shots, so expect his volume of shots to increase, and we’ll see if his S% follows or drops off.

Brassard has the highest PDO in the league (among players who’ve played more than three games) with a 1.153. His S% and his line’s are the main reason for that, as all three are benefitting from the other’s success with and away from the puck. The Flyers’ S%, while Brassard is on the ice, is 18, good for fifth in the league behind Gabriel LandeskogLeon Draisaitl, Anton Lundell, and Anthony Cirelli. Combine that .18 S% with a team SV% of .973, and you get the luckiest player in the NHL at the moment. 

Cam Atkinson

Atkinson’s numbers are similar to Brassard’s. The team is shooting at a .179 S% while he’s on the ice, and their SV% is .973. That puts Atkinson at 1.152, .001 behind Brassard, the luckiest player in the NHL. The whole line has played well and has produced more than the Flyers could have expected when the season started. They are among the best second lines in the league, and with better matchups, they generate better numbers at both ends of the ice.

Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers
Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Atkinson is shooting at 19.4 S% with 31 shots through 10 games and has six goals to lead the Flyers. Known as the goal-scorer on this like, Atkinson’s career S% of 11.4 indicates that the number will fall as the season progresses.

Related: Flyers’ Cam Atkinson Is Having Career-Revitalizing Season

Goaltender Carter Hart and the retooled defense are helping the team a lot. The team’s SV% is way up from last season, but the efficiency of the second line has re-established the team as a playoff contender.