Gonna go ahead and compliment Craig Berube now. Fasten your laps belts– sudden changes in direction can be jarring.
0, 2, 3, 2, 0, 1, 3, 2.
No, those aren’t the aggregated ratings of NBA Live 14— those are the Flyers’ opponents’ goal totals since the OB lost 7-0 to Washington during Ray’s Friday Fright Fest. They’re not all wins, but they’re all sound defensive efforts. In the loses early in that string, it appeared as if the Flyers weren’t even trying to score, but instead, just prevent the other team from scoring. Then something changed. Beginning on Saturday, November 9 (the day Ms. CB and I sat in the third row and brought dat Brad Cooper Juju, mind you), the Flyers have earned points in five consecutive games, winning four of them. They have, in every way, shape and form, turned a corner. How did that happen?
I have a theory.
Their biggest problem last season and the early part of this season was defense. It was porous. You get the sense that Berube decided to focus on defense and defense only during his first few weeks at the helm of this veering out of control prison wagon.
1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 5, 2, 0, 1, 1, 0.
Those were the Flyers’ goal outputs from the beginning of the season until November 7. Look at the back end of that– 0, 1, 1, 0. I will argue that Berube was willing to sacrifice a few games in an effort to get the defense right. Don’t score, just stop the other guys. He may not have explicitly told his team that, but I’m willing to bet he was OK with the lack of scoring once the defense got right.
Their goal outputs since then, starting on November 9? 4, 5, 2, 3, 5.
Last night, after blowing a 2-0 lead and Nick Grossmann making the save of the year on Kyle Turris, the Flyers bounced right back, with Old Man Timonen and Wayne Simmonds scoring just 23 seconds apart.
The team has life again. They are taking pride in playing defense and converting opportunities.
Something changed. That sort of shift isn’t just happenstance. It’s not just luck. It’s not my Juju. The Flyers started combining their defensive and goaltending efforts (Steve Mason is outstanding and I like him) with scoring. The result is nine out of 10 points and a sense of worth being injected into the season. It’s a small sample size for sure, but Berube deserves credit for such a rapid correction of an obvious weakness.
Oh, and they’re 5-1-2 since Ray Emery assaulted a man. Culture?