The Flyers finished preseason in Washington with a dismal 1-5-1 record. (USA Today Images)
Players approve new rule
TORONTO -- A rule change involving icing the puck will be in effect for the start of the NHL regular season after it was approved by the players.
The NHLPA gave the go-ahead for the rule change that makes icing a race to an imaginary line across the faceoff dots instead of the puck, which was given a trial run during the preseason.
Previously, a player had to actually touch the puck after it crossed the red goal line. Icing is called when a team, in an effort to reduce pressure in its own zone, dumps the puck down the ice. When icing is called, play is brought back to the offending team's zone for a faceoff.
The rule change is to prevent serious injuries, such as the one that sidelined Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen for the entire season (see full story).
- The Associated Press
The regular season begins on Tuesday for some NHL clubs.
For the Flyers, it begins Wednesday when they open at the Wells Fargo Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That extra day of practicing, going back to Sunday, figures to be fairly important given how disorganized the club looked in preseason.
The focus right now appears to be getting a solid defensive scheme down for all five skaters on the ice. Coverage breakdowns, gap exposures, chasing the puck instead of owning it, were of significant concern in preseason.
That the Flyers only played two of seven games with a full lineup represents a mistake by management that can’t happen again. In trying to evaluate 60-plus players, the Flyers didn’t get enough time to mesh the group of 23 who are actually going to play here this season.
That mistake could become magnified if the lack of cohesion carries over into the regular season.
Which is why this week’s practices will likely reinforce systems play, especially from the defensive zone forward.
“Everything is very similar,” said Braydon Coburn, who played pretty well in preseason. “It’s all about execution. I think our preseason was one of poor execution and it hurt us.
“It’s preseason, guys coming in and getting used to each other again. You go from summer hockey to everything being so structured. Those things are ok. You can learn from them. Just move on and correct them.”
Coburn said the overall breakdowns on both sides of the puck has been reinforced in the video sessions. Other players said just bearing down and playing better one-on-one will solve things.
“We’ve talked about it in the room and gone over video,” Coburn said. “Everybody knows what needs to be fixed. It’s mental mistakes … There were mistakes that happened, moreso in the last game [at Washington], but there are some good things that happened and we will build on the good things and correct the bad.”
Veteran Hal Gill, who hopes to get a contract on Monday if the Flyers can get under the cap and free up some money, said there was a lot of learning that had to be done.
“As a team we need to make sure everyone is on the same page, that there is a commitment to defense,” Gill said. “That is what we worked a lot on [Sunday] and you saw that in practice. Making clean plays, being responsible defensively. When you do that, your offense and creating offense comes off that.”
He admitted the poor 1-5-1 record was not something he would have expected from this group.
“Yeah, it’s definitely something to work on,” he said. “But you also have to remember it is preseason and everyone is learning the system. We have new faces – myself included. There are things that are easy fixes once you see the mistake on film. You correct it. That is a learning process in camp.”
Another newcomer, Vinny Lecavalier, admitted he is a bit behind the learning curve, having played so long with one team in Tampa Bay.
“I’m playing a new system, it’s a little bit different and sometimes, even myself, you make a few mistakes,” he said. “It’s all about adjusting and learning from the mistakes you make. We have video sessions for that. I think we did a lot of good things.
“The season starts Wednesday. We have to make sure we’re sharp and we keep things tight in our zone. After that, we’re a good skating team. Go skate and play in their zone.
“A good defense, if you are in their zone a lot more than your own, you will get opportunities. If you play well defensively, there will be good outcomes.”