Lunch Break: Flyers turning point?
Kimmo Timonen has been reunited with long-time defensive partner Braydon Coburn as part of Craig Berube's effort to shore up the Flyers' blue line. (AP)
Beyond the Flyers finally growing comfortable with Craig Berube's system tweaks (see story), if you’re searching for something to point to that will explain the team's recent improvement, start with the change along the blue line -- where they've stopped changing defensive partners.
At Game 13, Berube moved Kimmo Timonen back with Braydon Coburn. The two have been nearly inseparable for much of their careers here in Philadelphia.
Also, during this current 5-0-1, six-point run, Berube has put Erik Gustafsson with Luke Schenn. Gustafsson had been with Timonen.
“Cobie and Kimmo playing together before, sometimes, you go back to what works,” Berube said Friday at Skate Zone. “They’re very good together and I think you’ve got a puck mover with each pair now.
“That’s how I look at it. So far, so good. I like having a big guy with a puck mover and physical guys with each pair.”
Mark Streit, who also skates with the puck, is with Nick Grossmann, a stay-at-home guy who likes to bang and block shots.
The changes have prompted the Flyers' defense to settle down and take away much of the middle of the ice. They are better now on the breakout and in knowing which man pinches and which stays back.
Timonen and Gustafsson say the changes have benefited the both of them individually as much as the team in general.
“That’s the biggest [thing] – settling things down,” Timonen said. “Personally, I have played with every guy on this team, and that’s not really what I’m looking for.
“Now the pairs have been set 10-15 games and that pays dividends. It doesn’t matter who you play against and play with as long as you stay with one guy a little while and know what he can do. It’s a good thing we’ve settled down.”
Gustafsson feels the same way.
“When I got back in the lineup, me and Luke said to each other, 'Let’s not be tentative, let’s play our game,'” Gustafsson recalled.
“We complement each other pretty well. We take it shift by shift. Kimmo and Cobie played with each other a long time before this. They’ve been real good out there against other team’s top forwards and have good chemistry.”
Knowing who is the “go” man and who stays back was something that sometimes confused Gustafsson when paired with Timonen, who is an older version of himself.
“It shouldn’t have bothered me, but I think I was a little tentative when I was paired with Kimmo,” Gustafsson admitted.
“I didn’t really do the things I do now. Maybe because I was giving Kimmo the puck too much where I could have helped him out and [brought] my own game up.
“I think I needed a confidence boost. Someone told me I had to move the puck like I did before. This might be a little easier. I’ve got pretty good confidence right now playing with Luke. Being paired with Luke really helped out.”
Berube agreed that if two D-men share the same skill set it can make, it harder for them to play cohesively on the ice.
“Sometimes, it gets a little confusing,” he said. “But the way the pairs are set up right now, they know their roles and they are doing it well.”
Jakub Voracek was given a maintenance day off the ice on Friday. He played just 14:03 against Buffalo. His ice time was down over three minutes from his average.
That’s because Voracek played five shifts and less than four minutes in the third period. Berube said he wasn’t injured which means … he likely was benched.
Speaking in general terms, Berube said he wants his team moving its feet and unless the group is tired, there’s no excuse for that.
Asked whether Voracek was moving his feet, Berube replied, “Go ask him.”