Berube making simple fixes to Flyers' offense

Posted: January 06, 2014

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Craig Berube is a simple man.

When he took over for Peter Laviolette on Oct. 7, Berube's first fix was on defense.

"He plays more of a traditional style of defense, rather than an 'overload' where you had three guys in one corner," Scott Hartnell said. "It felt like an exhibition sometimes."

It took nearly a month for the Flyers to get the hang of the changes. They are 16-7-3 as of Nov. 9, a seeming turning point in the season. Once their play in the defensive zone settled down, Berube has since tweaked his system to get more offense out of his players.

The results are clear. The Flyers scored three or more goals 10 times in their 14 games in December, something they did only six times in October and November combined. Thursday's 2-1 loss in Colorado broke a streak of eight straight games with three or more.

"I'm sure you can see that we're doing things a little differently," Hartnell said. "We've learned the system. We're playing it well, we're playing with speed. 'Lavy' definitely had a certain type of offense when he came, and it was effective for a number of years. I don't know if it got stale, or teams were reading it, or whatever, but I think everyone is just clicking right now."

Neither Berube nor his players were willing to divulge exactly what the little tweaks have been. His principles remain rather simple, focused on a magic number of 30 shots on net per game.

"We talk about certain things, game-to-game, on what we can do better," Berube said. "For me, offense comes from putting pucks on net. If you get your 30 shots in games, good things are going to happen."

Berube's Flyers are 13-8-1 when they hit the 30-shot mark in games; they've done it in 16 of their 26 games since that Nov. 9 turnaround, a 4-2 win over Edmonton. In the 16 games in which they've scored three or more this season, they've posted 30 shots or more in 12 of them.

The Flyers rank 16th in the NHL with an average of 29.8 shots per game. They are tied for third-best win percentage in the league (.667) when outshooting opponents.

"The other things is, you've got to go to the net," Berube said. "You can shoot pucks all you want. If you don't get to the net, you're probably not going to score a lot of goals."

The net presence has paid off. Claude Giroux has 29 points in 27 games since Nov. 9. Wingers Wayne Simmonds (22 points) and Jake Voracek (23 points) also have excelled in the same span.

The Flyers also have gotten a big push from their blue line. They've gotten at least one goal from their defensemen in nine of their last 12 games.

"We're doing a real good job of not just getting it and shooting it," Berube said. "You've got to look. You can't let these players block shots. [Mark Streit] faked the shot the other night, just moved a foot and shot it. Boom. That's the difference."

Winger Matt Read (upper body) could return tonight at Arena against the Coyotes. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren labeled Read, who missed Thursday's game in Denver, as a "game-time decision."

Holmgren also said Michael Raffl (concussion) will not play. Raffl will be evaluated by team doctors tomorrow once the team returns home. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will not receive supplementary discipline for his check from behind on Raffl, which caused his face to bounce off the glass.

If Read cannot play, that means both Chris VandeVelde and Jay Rosehill will be in the lineup.

Phoenix captain Shane Doan is expected to make an early return to the lineup against the Flyers. He hasn't played since Dec. 4, sitting out with the bacterial disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Doan explained it as a "tick-carried [disease] that gets in your blood."

Doan, still tied for the Coyotes lead in scoring a month later with 12 goals, lost no weight, but suffered from headaches, joint pain and energy loss. He was cleared medically to play on Thursday, but the Coyotes thought he would return next week.

"I don't know how else to explain it other than I hurt," Doan told the Arizona Republic. "You get hot and cold. You get frail."

Doan, 37, visited with the Flyers for leverage in 2012 as a free agent before signing a 4-year deal to stay in the desert, where he is the only Coyote to make the move from Winnipeg in 1996.

The Coyotes (20-11-9) are only 3-3-4 in their last 10 games. They haven't won back-to-back games in nearly a month and were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday by Columbus.

Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper-body injury) is questionable after being boarded in Thursday's game. Zbynek Michalek (hip) is out . . . Thursday marked Steve Mason's first regulation loss since Dec. 7. Mason is 14-3-4 since Nov. 5 . . . Brayden Schenn skated a career-high 21:40 in Denver . . . Paul Holmgren said he expects defenseman Erik Gustafsson (left knee sprain) to return in 7 to 10 days.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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