At the Olympic break, Flyers coach Craig Berube said he wanted his team to focus on defense and disciplined play the rest of the season.
The Flyers have struggled in both areas since the break ended, but you can’t argue with the bottom line: three wins in four games, giving them seven victories in their last eight contests.
In Saturday’s fight-filled 6-4 win over Washington, the Flyers gave the Capitals a chance at a comeback. The Caps got three power plays in the second half of the game and scored on all three.
“Discipline is one thing we talk about,” defenseman Luke Schenn said after Thursday’s practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. In Wednesday’s win, “we were in pretty good control of the game and then a couple penalties ended up hurting us. There are some better penalties to take, obviously, if it prevents a scoring chance, but all in all, we have to be more disciplined.”
Berube, whose team plays in Toronto on Saturday night, agrees that the Flyers can play smarter and should be more in control.
But he also said some of Wednesday’s infractions weren’t warranted, and that they helped the Capitals nearly overcome a 4-0 deficit and get to within 5-4 late in the game.
“I didn’t like the calls in the third period, to be honest with you,” Berube said, referring to an elbowing penalty against Steve Downie and a hooking infraction on Mark Streit.
Berube, an enforcer when he played, was also upset that Washington’s John Erskine had his gloves off to fight Vinny Lecavalier, just after a fight between Luke Schenn and the Capitals’ Tom Wilson had ended. Lecavalier and Erskine were automatically ejected because of the “secondary fight” rule.
“What’s Vinny supposed to do? The guy (Erskine) is grabbing people and stuff. To me, he had instigated that, and to come out shorthanded, I’m not sure it’s the right call,” Berube said. “…I think Erskine deserved more than he got.”
A little later, Berube said, “I don’t like to complain about refereeing because it’s a tough job….but I didn’t like the calls.”
The Flyers lead the NHL with an average of 15.6 penalty minutes per game.
“You guys shouldn’t ask me another question about penalties, and I probably shouldn’t say another thing to the team about it because it doesn’t work. Does it?” Berube said. “…You just keep playing, keep working. Try to do our best to reduce them somehow. We’re working on it.”
On a positive note, Berube said he likes the “battle” and “character” his team has displayed to overcome a 1-7 start and climb into second place in the Metropolitan Division. In the four games since the Olympic break, the Flyers have allowed a whopping 17 goals, but have scored 18.
In other words, despite their shortcomings, they are finding ways to win.
“I love the way we’re coming out now in games,” Berube said. “We’re playing hard and fast and physical. I don’t want to stop doing that, but I don’t want to go to the penalty box because of that. I want to be disciplined, but I do want us to be a physical hockey team _ and be a fast, hard team to play against.”
Berube was asked how much of the penalties he thought were because of the Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies legacy.
“Call up the league and ask them,” he said.
“I’ll put it to you this way: We’re not going to get any breaks. You just deal with it.”
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.