Flyers point to defense for recent success

Defenseman Luke Schenn has been effective since being paired with Erik Gustafsson.
Defenseman Luke Schenn has been effective since being paired with Erik Gustafsson. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 24, 2013

The Flyers have put together their six-game points streak ever since coach Craig Berube inserted Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson into the lineup as a defensive pair.

A coincidence?

"We're definitely not going to take credit," Schenn said with a laugh after Friday's practice in Voorhees. "We're just a piece of the puzzle, but it seems like everyone is kind of getting back on the same track now."

The Flyers (9-10-2) will try to extend their 5-0-1 run when they host the Islanders on Saturday night and attempt to get to .500 for the first time this season.

"It took us a while to get Chief's system," said Gustafsson, referring to Berube by his nickname. "Now we don't have to think about it. We just do it."

During the Flyers' six-game streak, they have allowed just eight goals. A lot of the success is because goalies Steve Mason and Ray Emery have been outstanding and because the forwards have done a nice job with their backchecking.

But the much-maligned defense - Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, Nick Grossmann and Mark Streit, and Schenn and Gustafsson - has been solid.

Berube put Timonen and Coburn together - they have had success as a duo in the past - in the season's 13th game, a 1-0 win over New Jersey. That was the same game in which Streit was matched with Grossmann.

Three games later, the Gustafsson-Schenn pairing was created, and Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill - players who were playing fairly well at the time - became healthy scratches.

"I think everyone overall is committed to playing defense," said Schenn, who has been more physical after returning from being a healthy scratch for three games. "The forwards are coming back hard and helping the D, and [the defense] is closing on guys a little quicker in the defensive zone and making simple plays and chipping the puck out. And it goes without saying, our goaltending has been great."

Since their franchise-worst 1-7 start, the Flyers have gone 8-3-2.

"We're keeping things simple," Mason said. "In the beginning of the season, it seemed like we were making too many passes to get it out of our zone, and that created a lot of problems and some turnovers. But in recent games, things have become a lot cleaner, a lot crisper . . . and we're getting it out of the zone quicker."

"The guys are doing a great job making sure the goaltenders - myself and Razor [Emery] - are having the easiest time possible."

The Flyers, who have outscored opponents by 22-8 during their six-game streak, have moved to within three points of a playoff spot.

"We're not out of the hole yet, and until we're in a much more secure position, I don't think we should be feeling too good about ourselves," Mason said.

Breakaways

Winger Jake Voracek played just five shifts in the third period Thursday, but Berube said Voracek was healthy and he wanted to use Adam Hall for his defense and faceoff ability. Voracek, whose five-game points streak ended Thursday, had a maintenance day and did not practice Friday. . .. The Flyers are 31-4-2 against the Islanders since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 5-2 win on Oct. 26 on Long Island. The Isles played in Pittsburgh on Friday.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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