Panaccio on the Flyers replacing Gustafsson with Meszaros
The Flyers are 3-4 since replacing Peter Laviolette with Craig Berube. (USA Today Images)
Accountability has been one very noticeable change between Craig Berube and his predecessor, Peter Laviolette.
Not that Lavy didn’t impose it. He did. Just not very often. Berube is doing it regularly.
When a player does dumb things in games, like Zac Rinaldo did Saturday on Long Island by taking two very bad penalties, Berube cut his ice time drastically.
Rinaldo played just 3:39 in the game -– almost four minutes fewer than normal.
Which brings us to 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gustafsson. He had a rough game against the Islanders, even though he finished with an assist and was plus-1. He had a full two minutes fewer than his usual ice time of 19:48 for the second game in succession.
On Tuesday, when the Flyers host Anaheim, Gustafsson will be in the press box while Andrej Meszaros will re-appear in the lineup after a five-game absence as a healthy scratch.
"I think Gus has been fine,” Berube said. “Last game was a little bit of a down game for him. Other than that, he’s been pretty good. I didn’t like his last game as much, but I also want to get Mez in there, too. He’s been out a little bit and needs to play. That’s my reasoning.”
It’s about accountability.
“If somebody’s not playing well, you keep putting him out there when there’s guys that are playing well,” Berube said. “I think it’s pretty simple. Play guys that are playing good. Not everybody has their best game every night, but you wish they did.”
Gustafsson, who has had some defensive gaffes in recent weeks, says he is OK with accountability.
“Yeah, I think so and it’s a great thing,” he said. “He keeps the team and the practices competitive. That makes us get the most out of our players and our team. If that’s what it takes to win games, I am all for it.”
He also says he knows what he did wrong even before being told by the coaches.
“A couple mistakes that led to a few chances for them,” Gustafsson said. “Not really on top of my game with passes on the tape. Not my best game. Not terrible either, but you can always get better."
Meszaros did not have a good training camp and hasn’t been the same player he once was for more than a year now because of persistent injuries, especially to his left shoulder. He didn’t look good during the first five games of this season with no points.
In his entire nine-year career, Meszaros said only once was he ever a healthy scratch. And that lasted just one game in Tampa Bay.
“It was tough for me,” he said of his Flyers experience. “This was five games. It was hard. I worked hard in practice and tried to stay in shape. Just have to wait for my opportunity and prove to everybody that I can play.”
Meszaros needed to improve his defensive footwork. He’s done a lot of skating these past two weeks with Ian Laperriere and footwork positioning on the ice with John Paddock.
“Nothing specific,” Meszaros said. “Just trying to stay in game shape. Skating with Lappy and doing some drills and shooting the puck. Just the basic ones that everyone does when they’re not playing.”
Anything specific that they wanted from you?
“I’m sure if you talk to the coach ... whatever he said,” Meszaros replied. “I just respect his decision and trying to keep my head up and work hard in practice and wait for my chance, and now that it’s here, I’m really happy about it.”
While Meszaros is happy to return to the lineup, Gustafsson, who sat as a healthy scratch the first five games of the season, says he has a new goal.
“Obviously, you want to play the games,” he said. “That is why you are here. But you have to keep working hard. I’m happy for the games I got. I’m just going to keep working until I get my next shot and try to be better than I was.”