Tuesday, February 9, 2016

For last-place Flyers, some positives

Even though the Flyers are last in the Metropolitan Division, positive signs are emerging.

For last-place Flyers, some positives


Even though the Flyers are last in the Metropolitan Division, positive signs are emerging.

In short, the team appears to be adapting to Craig Berube’s defensive-oriented system, one that employs a second forechecker and tries to generate turnovers in the neutral zone that can trigger an offensive opportunity.

“I think we did a good job with it on the last road trip, and we just have to keep following it,” winger Jake Voracek said after Monday’s practice in Voorhees.

The Flyers, who begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against Ottawa, have points in their last four games (3-0-1) and, excluding an empty-net goal, have allowed just nine goals in their last seven games.

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Some of the defensive excellence is because goalies Steve Mason and Ray Emery have been mostly outstanding in that stretch.

And some of it is because the players say Berube’s system is becoming engrained. The Flyers are more instinctive on the ice, and they are doing a better job backchecking and pressuring the puck _ little things that contribute to victories.

“I think it’s finally becoming more of a habit rather than thinking about it,” winger Matt Read said. “You notice it in games; we’re sustaining more pressure, creating more turnovers in the neutral zone and playing better defense.’’

During their current four-game points streak, the Flyers have outscored their opponents in even-strength situations, 9-1.

They have made vast improvement after going 1-4 in Berube’s first five games.

Center Vinny Lecavalier noted that the Flyers didn’t get a lot of practice time to work on Berube’s system in the first couple weeks. Berube replaced Peter Laviolette after the third game, and because of a crowed schedule, there weren’t many practices early in his tenure.

The more practice time they have gotten, however, the more they have improved.

“We’re more in sync. We’re playing better as a team,” said Lecavalier, who leads the Flyers with seven goals. “The confidence level is definitely higher. It’s always tough when you get a quick (coaching) change. You’ve got to change your system and just finding guys on the ice.…The more reps you do, the more practices and games you get, the better you’ll be at it.”

The Flyers are 7-7-2 under Berube.

“Like I said the other day, you have to stay on it all the time. It’s a 24-hour job,” Berube said. “That’s why you come to practice. You have to practice properly because if you start to think you’re better than you are or don’t want to work at things, you get sloppy very easily and it goes the other way.”

Told that his players sense the system is becoming second-nature to them, Berube seemed pleased.

“I think over time, that’s what we want,” he said. “We don’t want them thinking about it; we want them to just go. We want them to skate and work and know where they’ve got to be. When you do that, your team is going to look a lot faster.”

Breakaways. The Flyers scored a 5-0 win in Ottawa last Tuesday, a game in which the Flyers had five giveaways and the Senators had 20…. ..Cherry Hill’s Bobby Ryan (team-high 10 goals), in his first year with Ottawa, will be playing at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since Oct. 21, 2010, when he was with Anaheim…..Entering Monday, defenseman Nick Grossmann was seventh in the NHL with 51 blocked shots.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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