Flyers have a tough road ahead
VOORHEES, N.J. — Asked to explain the difference between the Flyers team that beat Detroit Tuesday night 5-0, and the Flyers who lost to Boston Saturday 6-1, coach Craig Berube stuck to what he knows, which is exactly what he’s preached all season.
“More urgency, more composure; execution and skating, just the usual stuff,” Berube said after a getaway practice Wednesday at the Skate Zone. “That’s what it basically boils down to — competitiveness. How badly you want to compete and doing things right.”
Harping on such simple principles was Berube’s vehicle to a midseason resurrection for his team, which recovered from a 1-7 start to reach as high as second place in the Metropolitan Division. The four-game losing streak that culminated in an unsightly home humilation at the experienced hands of the Bruins took care of that, but Berube and the Flyers are hoping that the victory over Detroit gets them back on the right path again.
Just one problem: That path cuts through Anaheim Thursday night, then continues on to Los Angeles and San Jose. Not exactly a happy whistlestop tour when it comes to traveling NHL teams.
Especially those that so recently lost their way.
“We’re not out of it,” Berube said, referring to his club’s slump. “It takes a lot of work to dig out of it. It’s one game, and we have a tough road trip here, playing three of the top teams in the league out west.
“It’s going to be tough hockey, and I’ll tell you right now we better be ready.”
They’ll start with the toughest. The Ducks have far and away the best record in the NHL at 39-10-5 (83 points). They especially excel at home, going 21-2-2 there, with one of those two regulation losses coming Tuesday night to the Minnesota Wild.
Hey, maybe that’s a positive indicator. Of course, to Berube, it’s more about how his team’s playing than what the Ducks are doing.
“For me, playing Anaheim tomorrow, it’s about the start of the game,” Berube said. “It’s come out skating and be competitive. ... You can control how hard you work and how competitive you are. There are other things you can’t control. ... But for the most part, if you work and you’re competitive you’ll have success.”
His players say they buy into that theory, even if they don’t always show it. Berube said of recent regulation losses to Carolina, Columbus and the Bruins, “We didn’t play very good at all. Like, at all. We were outskated, outworked in my opinion, in all three of those games.”
Now, after pulling together in time to whip the Wings, comes a very tall challenge for the Flyers: The Ducks, Kings and Sharks are a combined 56-12-8 at home. As for the Flyers (26-22-6, 58 points), they have a playoff-worthy toehold in the Metro’s third spot with 58 points, but six Eastern Conference teams are jammed behind them at between 55-57 points.
What more need be said about this road trip?
“First of all, we need the points,” Mark Streit said. “Second, we won the game (Tuesday) night and we want to keep that going. It wasn’t everything perfect but we improved in different areas and we want to keep improving and get some wins. If you look at the standings it’s really tight and now we’re going to face three really great hockey teams.”
After the road trip, the Flyers have games against Colorado and Calgary before several of their members depart for the Olympics and others depart for beach points elsewhere. What they’re all hoping is that they’re still at least a step ahead of the conference crowd when that break in the schedule commences.
“You’re playing against three big teams that skate well,” Berube said of the upcoming trip. “It’ll be hard hockey. You really have to grind it out against these teams and you have to give it your best because like I said, they are big and talented and they’ll be tough games.
“It’s a big road trip. It really is. I think we’re going to see what we’re all about here.”