Smarter play sparks Flyers' resurgence

Flyers captain Claude Giroux ended his scoring drought on Nov. 9. TOM MIHALEK / Associated Press
Flyers captain Claude Giroux ended his scoring drought on Nov. 9. TOM MIHALEK / Associated Press
Posted: November 16, 2013

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - There are many theories for the Flyers' resurgence, one that has them on a season-best three-game winning streak and has inched them closer to the pack in the mostly woeful Metropolitan Division.

Some Flyers point to their 7-0 loss to Washington on Nov. 1 as a turning point, saying the team used its late brawl, and a subsequent players-only meeting, as rallying points. Since then, the Flyers are 4-1-1.

Others point to the Flyers' improved discipline, and solid defensive work, including superb goaltending by Steve Mason and Ray Emery.

But arguably the No. 1 reason for the turnaround is this: smarter play with and without the puck, especially in the last two games - road wins over Ottawa and Pittsburgh. In those games, the Flyers had just six combined giveaways while their opponents had 30.

"It's the skating, the forechecking, getting on people," said Flyers coach Craig Berube, whose team has allowed just one goal - total - in the last two wins. "When you're working and reloading and skating and getting on people, they'll turn pucks over. You give them time, they'll make plays."

Berube said there is room for improvement.

"It's not where it needs to be yet, but it'll get better," he said after the team arrived in Winnipeg on Thursday afternoon. "We're going to keep working on it. It's my job to keep harping on it."

The Flyers, who are becoming acclimated to Berube's defensive-oriented system, also have benefited from Claude Giroux's wake-up call on offense, Brayden Schenn's improved play, and Vinny Lecavalier's return to good health.

Put it all together and the Flyers (7-10-1) have climbed closer to .500, not a small accomplishment when you consider their franchise-worst 1-7 start.

After the 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Berube called the team a "work in progress."

"You can't take a break. My job is to keep teaching and make sure they are focused."

On Friday, the Flyers will conclude their three-game road trip at Winnipeg (9-9-2). Like the Flyers, the Jets have won three straight.

The Flyers are 4-3-1 on the road, 3-7 at home.

"The pressure builds up at home," Berube said. "On the road, you play a little more relaxed. You don't have to be perfect on the road. At home, sometimes, you have a power play and it's not clicking and the fans get on you. The kind of stuff that's natural."

Breakaways. Steve Mason, coming off his 20th career shutout and first as a Flyer, is expected to get the call against the Jets. . . . Winnipeg entered Thursday last in the league on the power play, clicking at just 8.4 percent, while the Flyers were tied for 24th, at 13 percent. . . . Winger Michael Raffl has recovered from the flu and will be available Friday, but Berube may stick with the same lineup. . . . In the win over the Penguins, defenseman Braydon Coburn played a staggering 28 minutes, 31 seconds, including 6:18 while the Flyers were shorthanded. . . . During their three-game winning streak, the Flyers have outscored their opponents, 11-3, including an 8-1 margin in even-strength situations. . . . Lecavalier (10 of 13) and Adam Hall (7 of 8) were dominating in the faceoff circle against the Penguins, helping the Flyers win 56 percent of the draws.


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