The Flyers have been shorthanded 33 times this season -- more than any other NHL team. (AP)
Craig Berube has an idea of how to get his players to stop taking so many bad penalties.
“Don’t watch me play,” the Flyers’ coach joked at Tuesday’s morning skate.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, however, that’s probably not enough to solve their problems. The team leads the league in penalties, with 45 through six games. They’re averaging 19.7 penalty minutes per game.
That’s not a recipe for success -- especially against a Vancouver Canucks team with some dangerous weapons they’ll face tonight at the Wells Fargo Center (see game notes).
“You can’t be in the penalty box for half the game and expect to win,” Wayne Simmonds said, bluntly.
In truth, Berube believes the Flyers are well on their way to correcting their tendency toward sloppy infractions. The coach mentions his team’s play “without the puck” at least two or three times per interview -- and not just because how the Flyers play when they don’t have possession will help them in their own zone or in creating offensive opportunities.
Penalties like hooking, tripping and holding -- penalties that can be easily avoided -- tend to happen when a player is caught out of position or behind the play. You've seen it happen plenty to the Flyers already this year.
Picking up their skating and positioning, then, should alleviate the need to commit penalties because of getting caught flat-footed.
“I think it will,” Berube said. “But also you’ve got to be conscious of [taking penalties], and you can’t be doing it anymore. More stick on puck, close quick on people, so you don’t have to hook and hold.”
Once their skating and positioning issues are corrected, the Flyers simply need to change their frame of mind, Berube believes. When that happens, their behavior should be back in order.
“It’s just discipline,” he said. “It’s just a change of a mindset for me. The Flyers have a reputation, and we all know that. It’s got to change. It’s got to change. It’s 2013, you can’t keep going to the penalty box and doing stupid things out there.”
As expected, Steve Mason will get the start in net against the Canucks. It will be Mason’s fifth start of the young season.
Despite his 1-3 record, Mason has been consistently impressive in each start. He enters the game with a .935 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average.
Both Michael Raffl and Tye McGinn, who were called up last weekend following injuries to Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell, will be in the Flyers’ lineup again Tuesday.
The absence of the two veteran forwards certainly isn’t a benefit, but for a struggling team, sometimes the presence of fresh faces can be of some help.
Both McGinn and Raffl attended training camp but hadn’t played since preseason ahead of Saturday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
“Obviously it’s some new spirit,” Jakub Voracek said.
Feeling the pressure
With a 1-5 record, injuries to some key players and a new system in progress, Berube admitted added pressure “comes with the territory” for the Flyers.
That said, the Flyers feel like they're getting back on track, however slowly it might seem to onlookers.
“Our record doesn’t show how we’re playing,” Claude Giroux said. “Every game, we feel like we’re getting better. We’re playing as a system as Chief [Berube] wants us to be. We should just stay with it.
“It’s going to pay off soon, we just need to keep playing the way we’re playing.”