Craig Berube: Flyers 'need to be a faster team'

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Craig Berube: Flyers 'need to be a faster team'

The mantra from Craig Berube in the two lengthy practices he’s had so far has been: Do things faster.
 
That's why the Flyers were in constant motion, nearly the entire 90 minutes on two sheets of ice Thursday at Skate Zone.
 
“I just think we need to be a faster team and to be a faster team you’ve got to skate,” Berube said. “It takes work. It takes practice. You’ve got to work at it.
 
“If you don’t work on it at practice, if you don’t do drills with pressure and all that stuff, I could probably go out there and still play. Not that I could ever play, but you know what I mean. They can get faster. Everybody can get a little quicker.”
 
The Flyers have not looked very quick this season. All you read from writers in Toronto and Montreal is how slow the Flyers appear on the ice.
 
There is a lot of truth in that, yet the hidden truth is the Flyers are faster than they’ve shown.
 
Berube says he doesn’t quite have a handle on why the team’s overall skating conditioning coming out of training camp wasn’t up to par.
 
Here’s a thought: There were 64 players in camp, and very few practices and only one game with their entire lineup. Hence, they didn’t have time to work on conditioning as much as systems, and their players were not in game shape.
 
Several Flyers have admitted they aren’t yet in game shape.
 
“It’s not so much I am talking about guys coming into camp out of shape,” Berube said. “They all worked hard and trained hard this summer. It’s just the skating. On the ice. It’s certain drills you are going to do that make you faster under pressure. Just being competitive and quicker in all the battles. Stuff like that. Thinking quicker. It’s all part of it.”
 
Thinking quicker means analyzing the play and trying to figure it out before the opponent does. The one advantage a slower player has against a faster player is if his instincts or reactions are quicker.
 
That’s what Berube is preaching this week. If your mind is thinking quicker, your legs will follow.
 
“You still have to think, but you think quick,” Berube said. “We can’t play a slow game. Whether you can’t skate as fast as the other guy you have to play a fast game.
 
“Knowing what you’re going to do before you get the puck. Making quick plays. Supporting the puck. Play as a team and it will look faster.”
 
It all begins on the breakout, too, which has been disjointed and slower than Berube would like. A quicker breakout gets everyone’s legs moving and generates speed moving zone-to-zone allowing a smoother, coordinated forecheck at the other end.
 
“During the game, automatics are important and we have to know what to do right away with or without the puck,” said defenseman Mark Streit. “I think defensively, we can play better, close on guys quicker, close gaps quicker. And breaking the puck out, supporting each other ... It starts back there. We have so much skill up front and speed, but those guys need to get the puck and need to get it on the tape, and then we can create offensively.
 
“I think [Berube] wants to play a fast game and I like that. You want to move the puck right away and join the rush and create like that.”
 
Berube liked some of what he saw in the 2-1 win over Florida. Yet, he still thinks the Flyers are taking shortcuts in their work ethic.
 
As Claude Giroux said the other day, you know you’ve done something wrong going back to the bench if Berube “gives you that look.”
 
Battling harder is something former coach Peter Laviolette said several times the past two weeks before being fired.
 
“Our players got to understand that they have to compete harder one-on-one,” Berube said. “We had some plays that were there, but it was blocked, or they got sticks on it and stuff.
 
“Our D can be a little more active. We can use our D a little bit more. I was happy with our forecheck in that game.”
 
Goalies
Steve Mason is expected to start Friday night against Phoenix. Lifetime, Mason has a 3-6-0 record with a 3.25 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage. Ray Emery’s numbers are better: 2-2-1, 2.10 GAA, .911 save percentage.
 
So why Mason? Because Emery is very good against Detroit and the Flyers have a back-to-back with the Red Wings on Saturday in Motown. Emery is 3-0-0 with a 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage.
 
Berube says he doesn’t tell anyone who his goalie is until late the day before.
 
“When do I know? It’s game-to-game right now,” Berube said. “I don’t know [yet].”
 
Mason didn’t know either when he met with the media this afternoon.

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.

Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

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Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we highlight a Flyers goaltender prospect continuing to make waves in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend and much more as the season winds down.

Merrick Madsen, G, 21, 6-5/190, Harvard (NCAA)
Former Flyers general manager and current team president Paul Holmgren deserves a ton of credit for Madsen because the 21-year-old goaltender was a 2013 sixth-round pick and has developed into a legitimate goalie prospect. Last Friday night, Madsen proved again he has a future in professional hockey with a show-stealing 41-save shutout of Providence in Harvard's 3-0 win. He followed that up with another solid performance in net -- 27 saves, including several big ones in the final minutes to preserve a 3-2 win over Air Force on Saturday night to send Harvard to the Frozen Four. Madsen has now won 16 straight games -- a Harvard school record. He surpassed Grant Blair last weekend for the Crimson's single-season win record -- now at 28 victories. He earned the ECAC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player last weekend and also earned all-tournament honors; he's on the all-Ivy League first team, a finalist for the Ken Dryden ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year award and a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award -- NCAA Division I's best goaltender. With the Flyers' goalie situation next season, it's likely Madsen will come back to Harvard for his senior season, but his growth has been exciting to track. He's been excellent all season.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/209, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
After finishing the regular season on a seven-point, five-game point streak, Myers exploded for three points in Rouyn-Noranda's 5-4 loss to Halifax in Game 1 on Friday night. The right-handed blueliner registered his first goal of the postseason in the third period with a power-play tally with the Huskies down, 5-2. Myers began the play with the puck before handing it off to Jean-Christophe Beaudin and setting himself up for a one-timer in the circle. He added two assists in in the loss and finished as a plus-one. In Game 2, Myers was held pointless and finished as a minus-1, as Rouyn-Noranda won, 3-2, in overtime. The Huskies and the Mooseheads are now tied 1-1 with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison's freshman campaign is now over after Western Michigan was bounced from the NCAA Tournament Friday night in a 5-4 loss to Air Force. It was a rough return to the lineup for Allison, too, who finished the game as a minus-4 and received a five-minute major for charging with 1:13 left in the game shortly after WMU made it 5-4. He finished the season tied for fourth on WMU with 29 points -- 12 goals and 17 assists -- in 36 games.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski assisted on Ohio State's game-tying goal in the third period Friday night in its 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Laczynski finished the season with 32 points in 34 games and never regained his form he had before the world juniors.

• Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg returned to the lineup Saturday for the first time since March 3. Hagg was a minus-1 with two penalty minutes in his first game back, a 4-0 loss to Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. He sat out Sunday as a healthy scratch as scheduled.

Matej Tomek's sophomore season came to an end, too, over the weekend, as North Dakota was eliminated with a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Boston University. Tomek was a healthy scratch and has played just two games in his collegiate career thus far.

• After missing a lengthy period of time because of a concussion, Taylor Leier added a goal and two assists in four games last week with the Phantoms.

Connor Bunnaman finished as a minus-3 and received a five-minute major for slew footing in Kitchener's 9-1 loss to Owen Sound in Game 1 of their playoff series Friday night. Bunnaman was suspended two games for the incident and missed Game 2 on Saturday. He'll serve the second game Monday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven game series.

Anthony Salinitri picked up an assist in Sarnia's 9-3 loss to Erie Saturday night in Game 2 of its best-of-seven series. The Sting and Otters are knotted up 1-1. Game 3 is on Monday.

German Rubtsov (upper body) missed Games 1 and 2 of Chicoutimi's series with Victoriaville last weekend. Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday. Chicoutimi is up 2-0.

Pascal Laberge scored Victoriaville's lone goal in the Tigres' 2-1 loss to the Saguenéens in Game 2 on Saturday night. He had two penalty minutes in a 4-3 loss last Friday.

Samuel Dove-McFalls didn't factor in any of the scoring for Saint John's in its wins vs. Rimouski in Games 1 and 2 over the weekend but did win 63.3 percent of his faceoffs.

• Kelowna's Carsen Twarynski potted two goals and was named the first star in the Rockets' 4-0 win over Kamloops in Game 1 on Friday. He was pointless in Game 2 Saturday.

Carter Hart has Everett tied, 1-1, in its best-of-seven series with Victoria. In Game 1, Hart turned away 30 of 32 shots in a 4-2 win but yielded four goals in a 4-3 loss Saturday night.

Oskar Lindblom picked up an assist on Brynäs IF's game-winning goal over Linkoping in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 4 on Friday. He had just one point in four playoff games last week. Brynäs leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2.