PHILADELPHIA – As much as Craig Berube has preached for his forwards to get back and help his defense, he has equally been pushing for the defense to jump up and help the offense.
While the former seemed to come together pretty quickly, the latter is still a work in progress… but it’s definitely been better.
“When I took over that was one of the things I really stressed – getting the defense involved in the rush and on breakouts and skating up ice,” Berube said. “That helps both the attack and the breakouts. When you have guys like [Mark] Streit and Kimmo [Timonen] and [Erik] Gustafsson… all of them really. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are or fast you are – get up there. When other teams see four guys coming on the rush it backs them off.”
And in the past few games the Flyers are getting better offensive creation with involvement of their defense. One guy who has shown an increased effort to generate scoring is Braydon Coburn, who was very noticeable in the offensive end against Winnipeg last Saturday.
Sure, most of his best chances came during the overtime when it was 4-on-4 play and there was a lot more room to maneuver, but Coburn is a guy who seems more active than ever right now and could be on the verge of becoming a more consistent defenseman in the offensive end, much like he is in his own end.
“The way he skates, he can do that because he can get back,” said Berube, referring to Coburn’s elite skating ability. “He should think that way more because if he does he’ll get more offense. Eventually they’ll go in. But he’s got to keep doing it, keep pushing it, keep after it and keep supporting it.”
For his part Coburn wants to be more of an offensive guy.
“You kind of have to pick your spots,” he said. “You have to know who you are playing against as well. You have to understand those players as well because they’re just looking for an opportunity and any sort of daylight.
“Every game I do try to pick those spots. I understand what’s going on out there and I have to keep plugging away at it. It’s a part of my game that I’d love to continue to improve on and contribute more because I know it would help the team.”
Berube said that’s fine, but he still wants his defensemen to be more aggressive than they have been, especially when there is a lot of skill on the ice for the opposition.
“The system is played the same no matter who is on the ice,” Beru be said. “If [Coburn’s] on the ice, let’s say he’s playing against [Sidney] Crosby. The important thing is to not have bad turnovers with guys like that. That’s what creates problems.
“But being aggressive against Crosby is important. Against any skill player, really. I don’t believe in sitting back against them. If you do, you are just giving them more time to do things. The turnovers hurt you against guys like that.”
Yet, Berube is pleased with the progress made by all defensemen in this regard – especially Coburn – but he still thinks they can reach another level as a group.
“I’ve really noticed it on breakouts, he said. “Guys are activating themselves from the back end and they’re getting more pucks and we’re creating a good attack. But we need to do it even more. We work on it a lot but we need even better attacks so we can get more pucks on net.”
NOTES: The Flyers have allowed only one even strength goal in the past four games, but have also allowed four power play goals in the same span… Steve Mason starts in goal for the Flyers. He is 2-0-2 in his last four starts. For the season he has a 2.13 goals against average a .931 save percentage. He ranks ninth and sixth respectively in the NHL in those categories among the 28 goalies with at least 10 starts… No other changes to the Flyers lineup as Berube likes what he sees from the current group. That means Michael Raffl, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill are all healthy scratches.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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