CRAIG BERUBE acknowledged he does not lose sleep over the shootout - despite the fact that his club has given up more points to opponents through breakaways than any other team since 2005.
"I don't think about it," Berube said yesterday. "For me to stress over it, for me to stress my team over it, it doesn't do anything."
Stress might not be good, but two wins (of any kind) instead of two more shootout losses through the first few games would have relieved a lot of his team's mental burden. Instead, the Flyers are 0-2-2 heading into a daunting, three-game road swing this weekend.
At an impossible 27-53 all-time, the Flyers have by far the lowest winning percentage (.338) in the NHL. Nine teams have more shootout victories on the road than the Flyers do total.
Why is that?
Perhaps because until the time comes to perform, the Flyers do not take practicing shootouts very seriously.
Including training camp, Berube has run his players through the exercise maybe two or three times. Even that, Berube said, is more than the Flyers practiced the shootout through this time last year.
"It's tough," Berube said. "To be honest, I don't want it to take away from our practice. Do you do it at the beginning of practice, when the ice is fresh? Do you do it in the middle of the practice? I don't feel I want to do that.
"So, we do it at the end of practice a lot and it's not the same effect. There's no tricks to it. It is what it is. That doesn't mean they can't practice it [on their own] to try and get better. That's all you can do. You never know, you just keep working on it."
Normally, the Flyers work on shootouts by simply lining up at center ice and breaking in on Steve Mason or Ray Emery one-on-one. There is no consequence for missing.
Simulating a real shootout scenario - the bright lights, the adrenaline, the crowd noise and even the score-or-goodnight dynamic - is nearly impossible. But there are other ways to grab the Flyers' attention.
The Penguins went 37-11 under coach Dan Bylsma in shootouts. Sure, it helps to have the talent of two world-class scorers in Sidney Crosby (26-for-62) and Evgeni Malkin (19-for-47) at your disposal.
But one of the most hilarious moments of "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" from HBO a few years back was watching the Penguins compete in shootouts during practice. In one memorable scene, for each round a player failed to score, he was forced to take off a piece of equipment. The final round pitted two players against each other, nearly half naked on the Consol Energy Center ice.
By that point, the first players to score for the Penguins were already showering and heading home.
Talent is one way to reason the Penguins' staggering 61-33 record. But that doesn't explain Buffalo's 58-46 mark, or the Islanders' 57-41 edge. Even an Edmonton team that has made the playoffs once since 2005 is a decent 52-49. The Flyers have boasted more offensive firepower than all of those teams in recent years, yet have little to show for it.
"On the Island, we didn't practice it a lot, but we'd do a competition," ex-Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "Everyone would go, it wasn't just guys who would shoot [in games]. If you scored, you moved on. If you missed, you had to sit there and watch."
Perennial playoff teams Chicago (52-55), Anaheim (44-53), Vancouver (45-53) and Detroit (43-50) all have losing shootout records, but they still have nearly 20 or more more wins than the Flyers.
The Flyers have squandered an average of six standings points per season in the shootout. Last year (3-7), winning one or two of those seven losses would have been the difference between home-ice advantage against the Rangers in the first round.
With an average of 11 out of their 82 games being decided by the shootout, the difference this season might be the playoffs. They should be devoting more time to it in practice, since it could ultimately have as much say in the season as a strong power play or penalty kill.
The difference may be a playoff home game or more. Considering the value of playoff gate receipts, maybe the Flyers would be best to throw a little coin into practice attempts. You know, for "entertainment purposes only."
"I'll start buying gifts for the boys if they score," Berube said, laughing.
Except we're not kidding.
Braydon Coburn (lower body) returned to practice yesterday for the first time in a week. He's expected to play Saturday night in Dallas . . . Craig Berube believes the Flyers' 0-2-2 stumble is magnified since it's the start of the season: "If it was the middle of the season, you'd be, 'Well, we got two shootout losses, we're doing OK. We getting a point here and there, battling.' " His message to the team yesterday was: "No one's going to feel sorry for you" . . . The longest the Flyers have gone to open a season without a win is six games: 0-5-1 (1999) and 0-3-3 (2008). They recovered to make the playoffs each time . . . The Flyers recalled forward Chris VandeVelde from Lehigh Valley yesterday . . . Not counting the holiday and All-Star breaks, this is one of only five times all season the Flyers have three full off-days between games.
Flyers stats (Since inception, 2005)
Claude Giroux: 18-42 (42.9%)
Matt Read: 6-17 (35.3%)
Michael Raffl: 1-3 (33.3%)
Brayden Schenn: 1-4 (25.0%)
Blair Jones: 1-4 (25.0%)
Vinny Lecavalier: 14-58 (24.1%)
Wayne Simmonds: 3-13 (23.1%)
Jake Voracek: 3-15 (20.0%)
Sean Couturier: 1-8 (12.5%)
Michael Del Zotto: 0-1 (0.0%)
Jason Akeson: 0-1 (0.0%)
R.J. Umberger: 0-5 (0.0%)
Mark Streit: 0-6 (0.0%)
Note: Blair Jones is 14-27 (52%) lifetime in AHL; Jason Akeson went 6-23 (26%) in AHL; Zac Rinaldo has never attempted a shootout in either the NHL or AHL; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France) scored shootout game-winner in historic upset of Canada in 2014 World Championships.
GOALIES: (W-L) (G-Sv.) (Sv. Pct.)
Steve Mason: (15-25) 88-136 (.647)
Ray Emery: (7-16): 47-78 (.603)
Shootout wins per franchise: 45.5
Games decided by shootout: 13.4 (1,422 out of 10,607 games)
Shooter success: 32.8% (3,269 goals on 9,981 attempts)
THE GOOD TEAMS
Pittsburgh: 61-33 (.649)
Colorado: 53-31 (.631)
New York Islanders: 57-41 (.582)
Dallas: 57-42 (.576)
N.Y. Rangers: 58-43 (.574)
THE UGLY TEAMS
Washington: 43-55 (.439)
Toronto: 38-49 (.437)
Ottawa: 36-48 (.429)
Carolina: 26-37 (.413)
Florida: 41-62 (.398)
Flyers: 27-53 (.338)
Note: Only Carolina (26-37) has fewer wins than the Flyers. Nine teams have more shootout wins on the road (28+) than the Flyers have wins all-time.
TOP 5 ACTIVE SHOOTERS (Minimum: 15 attempts)
T.J. Oshie (STL): 27-48 (56.2)
Tyler Bozak (TOR): 10-18 (55.6)
Frans Nielsen (NYI): 33-60 (55.0)
David Desharnais (MTL): 14-27 (51.9)
Matt Moulson (BUF): 14-28 (50.0)
WORST 5 ACTIVE SHOOTERS (Minimum: 15 attempts)
Martin Havlat (NJD): 4-24 (16.7)
Michael Ryder (NJD): 6-37 (16.2)
Daniel Sedin (VAN): 4-27 (14.8)
Tomas Plekanec (MTL): 4-28 (14.3)
Michael Frolik (WPG): 2-15 (13.3)
Note: Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur is 0-13 lifetime.
TOP 5 ACTIVE GOALIES (Minimum: 100 attempts)
Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT): 158-205 (.771)
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR): 234-310 (.755)
Antti Niemi (SJS): 135-182 (.742)
Kari Lehtonen (DAL): 151-209 (.722)
Jimmy Howard (DET): 103-143 (.720)
WORST 5 ACTIVE GOALIES (Minimum: 100 attempts)
Evgeni Nabokov (TBL): 138-214 (.645)
Ondrej Pavelec (WPG): 76-119 (.639)
Mike Smith (ARZ): 99-158 (.627)
Cam Ward (CAR): 72-115 (.626)
Niklas Backstrom (MIN): 102-182 (.560)
Note: Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky is only 42-66 (.636).