VOORHEES, N.J. – It is Day One of the Craig Berube era for the Philadelphia Flyers, and there were some very telling moments at his first “practice” which technically was a morning skate but had more than a few practice elements to it.
There were line juggles. There was defensive realignment. There were game situations practiced – namely breakouts and forechecking, before getting to special teams.
All told, the Flyers morning skate, which usually runs about 20 minutes at half-speed, was a 50-minute hockey-fest with a lot of game-speed action.
Something tells me this won’t be the norm on game days, and was rather a one-time deal as Berube tries to make on-the-fly systematic adjustments.
Nevertheless, the lineup switches are more indicative of the fact that maybe he wasn’t of the same mindset as Laviolette when it came to who should play with whom.
If that doesn’t create space for Giroux, who hasn’t registered a point yet this season, than nothing will.
Vinny Lecavalier is still centering the second line, with Jake Voracek on the right, and Brayden Schenn back on the left.
This marks the third different line Voracek has been on in four games this season, and while there is still some belief that he is feeling the affects of back injury suffered in the last home preseason game, he’s healthy enough to be playing and Berube had a simple message about his game:
“He needs to be better,” the new coach said.
Schenn also has bounced around onto three different lines, and two different wings. He got a power play goal in the opener, but since then has been pretty non-descript. Berube is hoping he can break out playing with two excellent playmakers in Lecavalier and Voracek.
“Up front we haven’t being scoring goals, so I wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Berube said. “I always liked Couturier, Read and Talbot though. They’ve been a good line before.”
Berube then explained his new defensive pairings as well.
“I didn’t see much from the pairings that were going on so I made some changes,” he said. “[Braydon Coburn) and [Nick] Grossmann is a shut down pair, [Mark] Streit and [Andrej] Meszaros can both move the puck pretty well and Kimmo [Timonen] and [Luke Schenn] played really well together last year.”
Another thing was an extended look at Rinaldo as a penalty killer.
“I definitely want to get him time there eventually,” Berube said. “He skates well, he’s not afraid to get in front of shots … I think he can do a good job there. I definitely want to see that here soon.”
Berube added that Rinaldo still had to work on his angles when playing the penalty kill but said that now that Ian Laperriere is an assistant coach, he would be able to work with Rinaldo to get him game-ready rather quickly.
“You know, Zac’s going to really benefit from having Lappy as a coach,” Berube said. “Actually, a lot of our young guys are going to grow with him around all the time. He’s going to be a big part of this.”
The idea is that Laperriere, who became a coach after spending more than a year as the Director of Player Development, can impart the necessary wisdom on the young forwards killing penalties culled from an accomplished playing career where he was diving in front of pucks.
But, Berube thinks Laperriere will have a greater impact than just turning Rinaldo into a reliable PK guy.
Laperriere was known in his playing days as being the ultimate team-oriented player. He was often described as one of those “first-guy-through-the-wall” types. It’s what endeared him to Flyers fans even though he played here just one season.
It’s why he won the Masterton Award in a season he didn’t even play a game in the NHL. He had that reputation around the league.
If there is a missing element in the way players have been playing for the Flyers is that they are too individualistic on the ice and not playing cohesively.
Last season, there may have been a bit of discord in the locker room, but this time it’s not that at all, as this group seems to genuinely like one another. But that doesn’t mean they are playing like they like one another.
“We’re the ones on the ice and we’re the ones doing a job and obviously we didn’t get the job done,” said Giroux. “We need to play more like a team on the ice. There’s no doubt that we’re a team off the ice – we like each other – we just need to show it on the ice now.”
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