Flyers finally coming together under Craig Berube

Flyers finally coming together under Craig Berube
January 2, 2014, 9:00 am
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After an 0-3-0 start with Peter Laviolette, the Flyers are 20-13-4 under head coach Craig Berube. (AP)

DENVER -- They don’t wilt in the third period like they did in October.

They don’t panic when they fall a couple goals behind -- like in Edmonton.

Instead, they come back.

And they’re a lot better now in tight games -- 10-4-4 in one-goal games.

The Flyers have had a resurgence under Craig Berube.

Thursday’s game against the Avalanche officially marks the halfway point of the season.

Who would have thought Berube’s team would be sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division and in a playoff spot after a 1-7-0 start?

“We know how to win games now, more than anything,” Berube said. “You don’t always play your best. There are still some inconsistencies in our game to clean up. But in saying that, we get the win now that we would not have gotten before.”

The pall that was cast over this group during much of the first quarter of the season has been lifted. Spirits are high because the team is winning -- 7-2-2 in its last 11 games. And players have seen their sticks spring to life with a trickle-down effect.

Guys like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, for example.

“It’s leadership too,” Berube said. “It’s much better throughout the team now. Giroux is learning his captaincy role more.

“It’s sometimes tough for skill guys to be leaders when they are not producing. He’s doing a good job and he’s not the only one leading. We’ve got a group doing that now.”

The Flyers are 20-13-4 with Berube, who took over for Peter Laviolette three games into the season.

They’ve learned Berube’s system, which was still underway in November. Their overall defense is better for the most part -- the goaltending has had some hiccups recently, but appears to have readjusted. And they’re scoring goals -- 14 in their last four games.

That said, overall goal scoring remains down, as the Flyers are 18th in the league at 2.55 goals per game, while giving up 2.70, 16th in the league.

Berube realizes that has to be reversed if this team is going to have a chance at not only making postseason, but also winning a playoff series.

“We’re getting enough goals to win games,” he said. “The other side of it is better discipline. If we become a less penalized team, we won’t be on the penalty kill as much and that will bring down the goals against.”

One area of improvement is team discipline, as the Flyers remain the most penalized team in the league with 228 penalties for 662 minutes -- an average of 16.6 PIM.

“It’s still an issue,” Berube said.

What isn’t an issue? Berube feels this group has gotten its act together.

“We’re becoming a team on the ice,” Berube said. “I always thought this group was close off the ice. Now I think they have become a team on the ice. That is really important. You need guys who get along off the ice.

“If you don’t jell on the ice and you are not close off the ice, it’s hard to win. I felt that last year. This year, I feel we have become a team on the ice. That’s huge.”

The improvement is evident: The Flyers were 3-8-0 in October, 9-4-2 in November and 8-4-2 in December.

Giroux, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds each had major scoring streaks going on this nine-day, six-game swing on the West Coast, including Western Canada.

Giroux (11 goals) leads the club with 37 points and likely has established himself back into the Canadian Olympic roster picture. Voracek has nine goals and 27 points, while Simmonds leads the team with 12 goals.

Brayden Schenn, who went 16 games without a goal, has two on this trip, while Sean Couturier has been much stronger on the puck and in one-on-one battles in the offensive end while still drawing the toughest lines as a shutdown center on a nightly basis.

Injuries have slowed down both Steve Downie and Vinny Lecavalier, and Scott Hartnell was demoted from the first line to a unit with Schenn and Simmonds. Lecavalier is now playing on Couturier’s right wing with Matt Read.

“I think Vinny is still finding his way back,” Berube said. “Plus, he is on the wing and not center. I don’t know if that has affected him. He definitely is not where he was before. He’ll get there.”