Flyers clicking at even strength
Improved 5-on-5 play has helped in three-game win streak
ATLANTIC CITY - Craig Berube said it comes down to concentration.
Jake Voracek said it's an upshot of better skating. Claude Giroux determined it has come from sound defensive play. Mark Streit said it's begotten in the breakout.
Not even advanced statistics can put a finger on why the Flyers have fared significantly better at even strength over the last few weeks, but no one is complaining. Their improved 5-on-5 play has been the catalyst behind the current three-game winning streak.
On this three-game homestand, the Flyers have outscored their opponents by a 9-4 margin at 5-on-5, hitting on an area of the game that Berube has been harping on for the last 14 months.
It is what enabled the Flyers to win over the last couple weeks while their power play stumbled on an 0-for-12 run from Oct. 28 through Nov. 6.
"I think it's just concentrating," Berube said. "We're making a real conscious effort to play better defense 5-on-5. We've been practicing it. We've talked gap control, making plays the other way. Offensively, we've been doing a lot of good things cycling, holding onto the puck. It's getting better."
At 5-on-5, the Flyers have the fourth most goals (31), but have allowed the seventh most (30). Through the first six games, they had allowed seven more goals than they had scored at even strength, so the current stats show an impressive turnaround.
Last year, the Flyers scored 151 and allowed 157, a negative ratio that was also vastly improved from the start of the year.
"We're better with the puck, we're better without the puck," Berube said. "To start the season, we were ready, we just didn't get off on the right foot and our confidence wasn't there."
The advanced statistics, which help paint a picture of puck possession, don't show a marked difference. The Flyers had a 47.1 "Corsi-for" percentage at even strength in the first eight games of the season, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and it's only been 47.9 over the last six games, when they've been more consistent.
Voracek said the Flyers' improved skating has allowed them more time with the puck, more time to make decisions. Giroux commended the team's approach to defense, especially with all the injuries.
"I think our execution has been better," Streit said. "We've been pretty consistent, not too many turnovers. When we weren't getting clean breakouts, it was ending up back in our end for 30 seconds at a time. I think we have so much strength up front - guys can skate, they handle the puck well - that it causes trouble for the opponents. It's been way better at even strength. It's won games for us."
Schenn out 2 weeks
Another game, another Flyers defenseman lost.
As if losing prospect Shayne Gostisbehere on Saturday with a torn ACL wasn't a big enough blow, Luke Schenn went down against Colorado.
Ron Hextall announced yesterday that Schenn will be out for approximately 2 weeks with an "upper-body" injury. Schenn left Saturday's game after an awkward hit from Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon in which he clearly favored his left shoulder.
Schenn, 25, could have suffered an AC joint sprain in the shoulder. While many Flyers, including Schenn's brother, Brayden, said MacKinnon should have been thrown out of the game (he was given a 5-minute major), the NHL did not suspend him yesterday.
Referring to MacKinnon's hit, the NHL's Department of Player Safety tweeted a link to an instructional video that includes images of legal plays when players first place a hand on the back of a defenseman before contact.
Schenn has only missed one game due to injury since he was acquired by the Flyers in 2012. With him sidelined, Carlo Colaiacovo is likely to rejoin the lineup on Friday night.
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, out since Oct. 22 with a right knee injury, did not practice yesterday. Hextall said MacDonald was rehabbing yesterday and will skate tomorrow. He first began skating again last Thursday.
"It's too soon to tell. I need to see him skating again," coach Berube said when asked if MacDonald could play Friday night. "We've got time to heal [this week]. The time off definitely helps out injured guys."
Less than 12 hours after Bernard Hopkins stepped out of the ring at Boardwalk Hall, where he suffered the most lopsided defeat of his illustrious career, the Flyers glided onto the ice at the same arena. More than 4,000 fans showed up for the Flyers' first practice in Atlantic City in 32 years.
The quick skate, which included a creative shootout session, was a way to say thank you to their fans in South Jersey.
Claude Giroux said his teammates had "no idea" that many fans would flock to a 30-minute practice.
"Guys were amazed," Craig Berube said of the experience, noting that Boardwalk Hall reminded him of the old Chicago Stadium. "It was awesome. The Flyers are fortunate to have such great fans and a great following. The players recognize that and appreciate it."
The team followed up yesterday's practice with a poker tournament at Harrah's for premium seat holders.
"It's my job to really keep these guys sharp. We're going to have 3 days in a row of practice. We've just got to make sure we're competitive and the intensity is high. It's important to have an almost game-like situation."
- Craig Berube, on the Flyers' 6-day layoff, their longest non-All-Star break of the season.