The Flyers beat the Florida Panthers, 2-1, in Craig Berube's coaching debut. (USA Today Images)
Craig Berube’s first full practice with his players came Wednesday at Skate Zone and he’ll get another shot Thursday to install new systems before the Flyers' next game, Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Berube wants greater defensive responsibility from the forwards, closer gap space between the defense and forwards on the breakout, and more bodies and rotation in front of his net on the forecheck to prevent quick “rim out” passes from the opposition.
Essentially, the Flyers will want three men at all times moving as a triangle with the intent of getting numbers in front of the net.
It’s different from the aggressive forecheck that Peter Laviolette had with multiple forwards attacking and a left-wing lock at the point.
Berube said the emphasis on his scheme is hard work, forechecking and skating.
“It’s puck pressure, but it’s not two-man puck pressure,” he said. “You’ve got to read and react and better reloads. I thought it was really good last night [against Florida]. I thought we did a real good job there, and I thought the reloads were really good.”
"Reloads" refers to when one man moves, another rotates to cover his spot in the triangle.
“We’re looking for something, but I don’t know if I am able to tell you what we’re going to play,” said Jackub Voracek, one of 17 players still without a goal this season. “It’s obviously going to be different from before. We’re going to play smarter with the puck and everything will take care of itself.”
Added center Adam Hall, “It’s so easy for a million different scenarios to play themselves out on the ice.”
The consensus was the new systems will take a few days for everyone to get comfortable with.
“That’s an individual case by case basis,” Hall said. “How an individual receives it. Each person has a different mindset how they view things.”
This week’s practices are on-ice instruction sessions.
“The next couple days are learning practices more than just up and down the ice and getting a sweat on,” Scott Hartnell said. “You’re trying to learn a new system and get on the same page. There are still lots of questions on certain situations -- neutral zone, forcecheck, things like that -- and it’ll take a few games definitely to get answers to those. But all in all … we have to use our heads, too, to be an effective team.”
Wednesday’s practice had a lot of hard skating and cardio.
“It was intense, which was important,” Voracek said. “We don’t play for three days so the practice is a little harder. I think that is what we have to do. There was a lot of skating out there. We have to keep up.”
What Berube liked best from the 2-1 Panthers’ win is exactly what he said he wanted to see from his players going in – passion, emotion, commitment to the task.
“Effort, competitiveness, effort,” he said. “I just thought guys worked really hard. The forecheck was good. We had some looks in the offensive zone that we wanted.
“We had our triangle and stuff. We just didn’t do enough with the puck. There has to be more composure with the puck and more one-on-one competing.”
He wants them moving their feet on the ice, too. Some of the defensive breakdowns on Tuesday were the result of standing still and watching, not skating.
“Skating is one thing,” Berube said. “The other thing is the systems, trying to get out system tighter and some changes in there. We’ll try to work on that and get organized and get our D-zone coverage organized.”
Voracek, who worked on Vinny Lecavalier’s line with Brayden Schenn, is still attempting to get his cardio up. He feels he lost two weeks worth of training because of the lower back injury he suffered in preseason after being tripped into the goal post.
“It’s tough when you miss two weeks and basically can’t skate or can’t work out,” Voracek said. “But I am getting to that level where I was in training camp. When you think about it, I only played two games over six months.
“So that game shape is a little different than practice shape. But I am getting better and better every day. I’m excited for Friday.
So the cardio drills help you?
“Of course,” Voracek replied. “That is what it is about. You got to skate. If you don’t skate, you are useless. The game is getting faster and faster every year. You have to keep up.”
The Flyers finally were able to get set up in their new dressing room, which is much smaller than their older room -- perhaps to promote team bonding.
It’s modern, shaped like an olive (or football) with dark lighting. The Flyers' illuminated logo is overhead – not on the floor.
“It’s awesome,” Hartnell said. “You walk in and, just like a new house. You feel proud to be part of an organization that spends millions and millions of dollars to make you feel more comfortable ... Everything from the ceiling to the puck [light] in the locker room, it’s pretty sweet.”
The renovations to the entire facility which affects the training room, coaches offices, equipment area etc., cost $4 million.