Was Berube's influence evident in his first game as coach?
Brayden Schenn scored in Tuesday's win over the Panthers, but coach Craig Berube believes that, as a group, the Flyers need to be faster. (USA Today Images)
The mantra from Craig Berube in the two lengthy practices he’s had so far has been: Do things faster.
That's why the Flyers were in constant motion, nearly the entire 90 minutes on two sheets of ice Thursday at Skate Zone.
“I just think we need to be a faster team and to be a faster team you’ve got to skate,” Berube said. “It takes work. It takes practice. You’ve got to work at it.
“If you don’t work on it at practice, if you don’t do drills with pressure and all that stuff, I could probably go out there and still play. Not that I could ever play, but you know what I mean. They can get faster. Everybody can get a little quicker.”
The Flyers have not looked very quick this season. All you read from writers in Toronto and Montreal is how slow the Flyers appear on the ice.
There is a lot of truth in that, yet the hidden truth is the Flyers are faster than they’ve shown.
Berube says he doesn’t quite have a handle on why the team’s overall skating conditioning coming out of training camp wasn’t up to par.
Here’s a thought: There were 64 players in camp, and very few practices and only one game with their entire lineup. Hence, they didn’t have time to work on conditioning as much as systems, and their players were not in game shape.
Several Flyers have admitted they aren’t yet in game shape.
“It’s not so much I am talking about guys coming into camp out of shape,” Berube said. “They all worked hard and trained hard this summer. It’s just the skating. On the ice. It’s certain drills you are going to do that make you faster under pressure. Just being competitive and quicker in all the battles. Stuff like that. Thinking quicker. It’s all part of it.”
Thinking quicker means analyzing the play and trying to figure it out before the opponent does. The one advantage a slower player has against a faster player is if his instincts or reactions are quicker.
That’s what Berube is preaching this week. If your mind is thinking quicker, your legs will follow.
“You still have to think, but you think quick,” Berube said. “We can’t play a slow game. Whether you can’t skate as fast as the other guy you have to play a fast game.
“Knowing what you’re going to do before you get the puck. Making quick plays. Supporting the puck. Play as a team and it will look faster.”
It all begins on the breakout, too, which has been disjointed and slower than Berube would like. A quicker breakout gets everyone’s legs moving and generates speed moving zone-to-zone allowing a smoother, coordinated forecheck at the other end.
“During the game, automatics are important and we have to know what to do right away with or without the puck,” said defenseman Mark Streit. “I think defensively, we can play better, close on guys quicker, close gaps quicker. And breaking the puck out, supporting each other ... It starts back there. We have so much skill up front and speed, but those guys need to get the puck and need to get it on the tape, and then we can create offensively.
“I think [Berube] wants to play a fast game and I like that. You want to move the puck right away and join the rush and create like that.”
Berube liked some of what he saw in the 2-1 win over Florida. Yet, he still thinks the Flyers are taking shortcuts in their work ethic.
As Claude Giroux said the other day, you know you’ve done something wrong going back to the bench if Berube “gives you that look.”
Battling harder is something former coach Peter Laviolette said several times the past two weeks before being fired.
“Our players got to understand that they have to compete harder one-on-one,” Berube said. “We had some plays that were there, but it was blocked, or they got sticks on it and stuff.
“Our D can be a little more active. We can use our D a little bit more. I was happy with our forecheck in that game.”
Steve Mason is expected to start Friday night against Phoenix. Lifetime, Mason has a 3-6-0 record with a 3.25 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage. Ray Emery’s numbers are better: 2-2-1, 2.10 GAA, .911 save percentage.
So why Mason? Because Emery is very good against Detroit and the Flyers have a back-to-back with the Red Wings on Saturday in Motown. Emery is 3-0-0 with a 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage.
Berube says he doesn’t tell anyone who his goalie is until late the day before.
“When do I know? It’s game-to-game right now,” Berube said. “I don’t know [yet].”
Mason didn’t know either when he met with the media this afternoon.