Berube: It's simple, Flyers have to improve

Posted: April 21, 2014

NEW YORK - Settling into the Flyers' hotel overlooking Central Park, Scott Hartnell acknowledged he lingered awake longer than normal Thursday night in the city that never sleeps.

"It was tough to sleep, knowing you lost Game 1 and it was right there going into the third period," Hartnell said. "I think you're going to see a different attitude, different mindset in Game 2."

The Flyers' attitude and mindset might be different, but after generating only 14 shots on Henrik Lundqvist after scoring on their first attempt on Thursday night, it doesn't sound as if Craig Berube's game plan will change all that much for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series tomorrow afternoon.

Berube asked his players to focus on dumping the puck in the Rangers' zone instead of attempting to carry it over the blue line, particularly against aggressive defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He acknowledged in a conference call yesterday he will "make some adjustments," but said getting rid of the puck was not the reason his top line of Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek were rendered invisible in their ninth straight loss at Madison Square Garden.

"If we make better plays coming out of our end, we will carry the puck in more," Berube said. "I didn't think we made good enough plays. Our 'D' wasn't active on the rush. Basically, we had no choice but to put the puck in deep, because we didn't have any numbers on the rush. This team has good gaps. You've got to read [the play]."

Whatever changes Berube makes to the Flyers' style of play could be the difference between heading back home tied at 1-1 in the best-of-seven series or mired in a two-game hole.

The Flyers have come back from a 2-0 deficit only three times in franchise history: in 1977 against Toronto, 2000 against Pittsburgh and 2010 vs. Boston. They are 19-17 all-time in Game 2 of a series when trailing, 1-0.

In Game 1, Berube looked like a genius when Giroux targeted McDonagh's side on a first-period dump, Hartnell hammered him and fed Andrew MacDonald to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Other than that, the Flyers' matchup problem was just about everything they feared.

Giroux was held without a shot for only the fifth time in 83 games this season - with three of those games coming against McDonagh and the Rangers. According to ShiftChart.com, McDonagh was on the ice at one point or another for 21 of Giroux's 23 shifts in the game.

Like many observers, Hartnell seemed to be at least a little confused as to why the Flyers' game plan would be centered on throwing the puck away when they've become such a possession-oriented team.

"We just have to figure out a way to get some offensive-zone pressure and keep it on them," Hartnell said. "We need a bit more composure with the puck. When we get it, we just look to give it away instead of creating some battles. Jake, 'G' and myself can win a lot of those battles, and it doesn't seem like we've been in a position to support each other.

"We probably played well at times during the game, but when you're chasing the puck for the majority of the game, you're going to end up losing a lot of energy just skating around chasing it. We need to figure out a way to get in the zone and create some pressure."

The Flyers' struggles weren't limited to only the top line. With a lack of possession, the Flyers spent a ton of the game pinned in their zone.

There were 35 faceoffs outside of the neutral zone in Game 1, 29 to the left or right of goalie Ray Emery. They won only 51 percent (15-for-29) of those defensive-zone draws against the NHL's 22nd-ranked faceoff team to exacerbate their possession problem.

"It's puck possession right off the start," center Brayden Schenn said. "You want to start with the puck. But it takes more than just the centerman to win the faceoff. We need to not get dominated in the faceoff circles. Obviously, there's a technique to it, but I think it just comes down to bearing down, having a strong stick and wanting it more than the other guy."

"This time of year, I think everything is magnified - faceoffs included," center Adam Hall added.

For Berube, the Flyers' entire issue stemmed from skating and not strategy. He didn't quite have an explanation for why his team would not be ready to skate after a 4-day break.

"We need to skate better," Berube said. "They overload and get people in [battles], but when we're skating and on top of our game, that doesn't happen as much. We let that happen too easily, because we didn't get numbers in there and get in there quick enough to get the puck out of there. We could play a lot better. And we will."


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