Reviewing the Philadelphia Flyers 2017-2018 season, one of the few bright spots on the back end happens to be Ivan Provorov. So far, Provorov has shown that he is a defensively responsible player who also has tremendous offensive upside. As evidenced by him being tied for the league lead in goals (17) and even-strength goals (15) for defensemen during the 2017-2018 season. The Russian-born defenseman seems to be scratching the surface of his true potential. Provorov’s ability in transition is what sets him apart from other defensemen.
Ivan Provorov in Transition
Today’s NHL is all about the transition game. Teams are emphasizing the ability to transport the puck efficiently from the defence in recent years. There are many defenseman who still mindlessly chip the puck off the glass or rim it around the boards on the majority of their zone exit (and entry) attempts. Ivan Provorov is not one of those defensemen. He excels in both controlled exits and entries.
The vast majority of Provorov’s attempted defensive zone exits are successful. On the Flyers, only Shayne Gostisbehere has him beat. When Provorov attempts to break the puck out of the defensive zone, the vast majority of the time he does. The less time your team spends in the defensive zone, the less time your opponent has to score. Exiting the zone successfully goes a long way towards achieving that goal.
The preferred way to exit for most teams is to have one of your players complete a controlled zone exit. A controlled zone exit refers to skating the puck out of the zone on your own (with possession) or completing a pass out of the defensive zone. These plays are extremely beneficial. The primary benefit is that these plays get the puck out of the defensive zone. A secondary (and arguably more crucial) benefit is it helps your team kickstart their transition game. Going from defence to offence at the drop of a hat puts the opposing team on their heels. Moreover, generating offensive zone entries is another area where Ivan Provorov stands out.
Controlled Entries are split up into Carry-in% and Pass%. Provorov has shown himself to be proficient in gaining the offensive zone with possession. Entering the zone with possession can lead to quite a few positive outcomes: shots, scoring chances, and goals. Dumping the puck into the zone can be useful at times. However, it’s utility is relatively miniscule in comparison to a clean zone entry.
Entry passes have also been shown to be quite useful in generating offence. Provorov’s ability to complete entry passes is a highly desirable trait. These types of passes open up space in the offensive zone for the forwards to unleash their creativity. What is more, research suggests there is a statistically significant relationship between controlled zone entries and shot generation.
Forcing a change of possession in the neutral zone or right at the blue line is a strong catalyst for transition offence. Ivan Provorov breaks up entries in a variety of ways. There are times when he utilizes his active stick to deny an entry. He can expertly separate his opponent from the puck on entry attempts through hip/body checks. Other times, he is able to strip his opponent of the puck and create an odd-man rush the other way. It is a rarity to see Provorov allow an opponent an easy zone entry without resistance. Denying entry attempts into the defensive zone has been shown to reduce shots and goals against. Provorov’s excellent gap control and active stick is a boon to the Philadelphia Flyers transition game.
There are currently three defensemen who are talented puck movers on the Flyers: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. In the AHL, the Flyers farm team houses two more defenseman who can move the puck well: Philippe Myers, and Mark Friedman. Myers has a solid shot to make the team out of camp. Friedman needs some more AHL seasoning but his game appears to be rounding out very nicely.
All data is measured at 5v5 and is courtesy of Corey Sznajder’s All-Three-Zone project
Main Photo: DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 14: Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers fires a shot against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)