Berube is a rock for Flyers

Posted: January 15, 2014

BUFFALO - Two games. Two days.

Two blowouts. Two places lost in the standings.

Amazingly, the mood in the Flyers' dressing room on Sunday night inside Madison Square Garden didn't really seem all that different from the previous week.

On most teams, in most situations, that would be a nerve-racking development. Wouldn't you want your players to be at least a little on edge in a dog-eat-dog Eastern Conference playoff race?

The Flyers weren't. That surprised me - though it probably shouldn't have.

The Flyers have slowly but surely taken on some of the same personality traits as their coach, Craig Berube. In 43 games on the bench - nearly 20 percent of the average NHL coach's shelf life - we have rarely seen Berube rattled.

It takes a lot to get him fired up. He is intense, but not over the top. There is a line and he rarely crosses it.

"Chief is an easy-going guy," assistant coach Ian Laperriere said last week. "But he'll tell you the truth. There's no 'BS.' He tells you exactly how he feels, what he thinks."

His players are noticing his calm demeanor. Even though the Flyers' drop in play over the last three to four games seemed inevitable - judging by anything from their advanced stats and 5-on-5 shot ratios to their nightly energy level - you almost got the sense that Berube let his players know what they accomplished over the last 30 days (a 10-2-1 record) was much more important in the long run than a weekend sweep.

"There's no tension in the room, no tension on the bench," said Jay Rosehill, who has played for quite a few coaches. "It's just honesty. There's no games with him. He's not trying to manipulate anyone. Everyone knows where they stand with him. He's fair and calls it like it is. The team always knows what is going on."

So far, it seems like Berube has pushed the right buttons. In Vancouver, after a thrilling, comeback, shootout win, Berube read his team the riot act. His press conference lasted 24 seconds, filled with one-word answers. After a win.

Two weeks ago in Denver, Berube pumped up his players after a gut-wrenching, one-goal loss in which they may have played their best game of the road trip. After a loss.

"If we get two points, and we didn't play well, he's not going to tell us that we played well," Rosehill said. "Sometimes, you get lucky and you need to know that."

Jake Voracek said, "You can feel it on the bench and in the locker room when we don't play well." He thinks Berube's gut instincts come from experiencing every possible scenario in a 17-year playing career.

"I think we've seen both parts this year," Voracek said. "In the beginning, we were very, very low. Then, we were very, very high, feeling great and playing well. Our confidence is high. He's always at the same level. He's easy-going, but very demanding. If you [mess] up, he lets you know."

Past experience has told these Flyers to wait for the hammer to drop. Maybe, under Berube, this once-fragile group is learning how to remain calm and confident amid the storm.

"I've had a lot of coaches that can lose their composure and really show their frustration," Rosehill said. "That spreads through the team so fast. Guys tighten up out there. Chief is just always solid back there. It's almost like we'll be sitting back there waiting for him to lose it and he doesn't. It's just a composure that spreads through the team."

General manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers will make a determination on Matt Read's status this morning at First Niagara Center. Read, 27, has missed the last six games nursing his second career concussion.

"He's getting closer," Holmgren said. "We'll see how he is after the morning skate."

The Flyers returned Tye McGinn to AHL Adirondack to make room for Read on the 23-man roster.

From here, the Flyers should be awfully certain Read is fully symptom-free. Just 6 days ago, Holmgren said Read was "not doing too good," struggling with "rapid eye movement" and "turning his head to catch a pass."

Read did skate for more than an hour on Sunday morning at Madison Square Garden, but the Flyers need to be careful. An extra 2 days, before Thursday's game against Nashville, won't hurt anyone. And if the Flyers desperately need Read to beat the Sabres, well, then, they have a whole different set of issues.

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Tribune yesterday he had no comment for Scott Hartnell or the NHL after finding out the league did not hold a supplementary discipline hearing for Hartnell's hit on Saturday.

Hedman saved himself a little embarrassment - or, at least, whatever was left of his pride after throwing his stick and helmet in a hissy fit on the way out of Saturday's game. He never returned after the hit but did not have any lingering symptoms yesterday.

The NHL reviewed Hartnell's hit and found no issue. He kept his shoulder down, his elbow down and - for a change - his skates glued to the ice. Hedman should have only been mad at himself for not keeping his head up coming through the neutral zone.

"If other GMs want to try to take advantage of the new guy, tell them to give me a call."

- New Sabres GM Tim Murray, on reshaping his last-place roster. With recent personnel changes in Buffalo and Winnipeg, the NHL's trade market could heat up quickly.

STAT WATCH

9-1: Flyers’ record in their last five sets of back-to-back games this season, prior to being swept last weekend by New York and Tampa Bay.

43: Percent of current NHL players drafted in the fourth round or later, or not at all, according to @NortonSports.

39: Percent of players on the Flyers’ current 23-man roster drafted in the fourth round or later, or not at all: Matt Read, Erik Gustafsson, Kimmo Timonen, Hal Gill, Ray Emery, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill, Mark Streit and Chris VandeVelde.

1: Ranking among draft-eligible European skaters for Kasperi Kapanen, son of former Flyer Sami Kapanen. The NHL’s midseason rankings came out yesterday. The draft will be held at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27-28. Florida officially will be awarded the 2015 draft with a press conference today.

THE WEEK AHEAD

at Buffalo

Tonight, 7:30

Incoming Sabres president Pat LaFontaine finally decided on a new GM, hiring Tim Murray from the Senators last week. Murray, 50, is the nephew of Phantoms coach Terry Murray. Now, the real changes can take place. Sounds like coach Ted Nolan’s interim tag will be removed. But will pending UFA Ryan Miller sign an extension? The Sabres are still the worst team in the league, but their points percentage (.458) has more than doubled (.225) since Nolan’s Nov. 13 hiring.

vs. Nashville

Thursday, 7 o’clock

The Predators will limp to town after dropping six of their last seven. Nashville, still without goaltender Pekka Rinne since an Oct. 23 hip surgery, entered last night a full 10 points out of a playoff spot and quickly fading from the picture. The Preds have the NHL’s fifth-worst goal differential at a minus-32, partly because they score just 2.3 goals per game.

vs. N.Y. Islanders

Saturday, 7 o’clock

Jack Capuano’s Islanders are the hottest team in the East. They’ve won seven of their last eight games. Last Sunday, they became just the sixth team in NHL history to win five straight road games despite trailing in each contest — joining 1929-30 Bruins, 1995-96 Whalers, 2006-07 Lightning, 2008-09 Penguins and 2011-12 Avalanche. Saturday begins a home-and-home series that culminates with a Monday matinee on MLK Day.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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