Flyers make clean break in Berube's debut

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
12:28
AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers’ new coach, Craig Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette behind the bench on Monday, doesn’t need to say much when he’s unhappy.

He doesn’t need to say anything at all.

“That look [is] enough,” Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said after the Flyers edged the Florida Panthers 2-1 Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

But it was far more than Berube's cutting stare that served as a motivating force behind the Flyers' first win of the season. The victory was a necessary response after the quick-trigger dismissal of Laviolette. And though the win wasn't pretty, it had purpose.

Players recognized the gravity of the recent regime change and answered accordingly.

Yes, the Flyers hired from within -- a practice that has earned them scrutiny many times before -- and picked a former tough guy, no less. But make no mistake that there has been a clean break from the previous regime.

Berube, Giroux and everyone in the Flyers' room knew that some things had to change following the team’s dreadful 0-3 start.

“All the guys in this room feel responsible for the two guys [Laviolette and assistant Kevin McCarthy] who lost their jobs,” said defenseman Braydon Coburn, who notched the deciding goal on a fluky bounce 7:31 into the first period.

This was not a team that looked relieved to see someone cut loose. Instead, there was a collective sense of accountability for what happened and acknowledgement of responsibility moving forward.

“It definitely conjures up some different emotions, for sure,” Coburn said. “Everybody in here, especially being so young, everyone has a really family feeling about each other. I think everyone in this room cares about each other. It’s tough for guys, and it’s tough for coaches, too.”

Coburn’s first-period marker, one that forced Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas from the game with a lower-body injury, gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead, but a strong, sustained attack began even before that. The Flyers, who team owner Ed Snider characterized as “lost” on Monday, skated hard, employed an aggressive forecheck and attacked the net with purpose.

They got on the board first when Jakub Voracek's hard slap shot took an odd bounce off the end boards for Brayden Schenn to bury 4:49 into play.

There were still some hiccups; among them, Jay Rosehill’s boneheaded decision to jump Tomas Kopecky on his detour from the penalty box during the third period.

“That was unacceptable,” Berube said sternly after the game.

But, in terms of hustle, Laviolette’s successor was pleased with what he saw.

“Overall effort, I have no problem with it,” Berube said.

That included an inspired penalty kill to erase Rosehill’s mistake -- a short-handed situation in which the Flyers chose to be down a man for four minutes instead of down two skaters for half that time.

Goaltender Steve Mason was terrific in his first start under Berube -- he made a fantastic split save to rob Aleksander Barkov in the first period and stuffed Shawn Matthias on a short-handed breakaway in the second -- but he didn’t have to face much rubber while his team killed off Rosehill’s roughing double minor to preserve a late 2-1 lead.

“It was huge,” said Mason, who finished the night with 33 saves. “When you can kill off four minutes like that, and, really, I don’t think they had a quality shot on net during that entire time. Penalty killers did a great job; that’s something that’s actually been a strong point for us so far.”

Berube, whose nickname -- “chief” -- is appropriate for his dry, no-nonsense personality, will be sure to hammer home all those other areas in which the team needs to improve.

He wants the club to be a harder-skating, harder-working team, one with a different personality and tougher mindset. Team defense will require some work, too. The Flyers’ blue line isn’t exactly the swiftest in terms of personnel, but they’ll need to activate in order to aid the team’s offensive weapons.

Those things will be points of emphasis in the weeks to come as Berube acclimates to his new position and his charges get used to the new leadership.

Whether the decision to fire Laviolette three games into the season was premature, or far too late, is moot now. The team needed someone different, and not just the shot in the arm that comes with a change of that magnitude.

They are still grappling to forget what got them all in the situation in the first place.

A fresh start?

“I think that’s what the guys want to feel like,” Giroux said. “There’s a taste of last year, not making the playoffs, and starting 0-3 [this season]. I think it’s a bad taste. I think guys want to believe it’s a new start. Start fresh.

"With a win tonight, obviously guys are going to get more confidence,” Giroux continued. “That’s how it’s going to start.”
Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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