Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Practice Updates, Replicating Results



In the wake of Saturday’s 4-2 Flyers win over Detroit, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had a rather blunt assessment of the game. He was not about to give Philadelphia much credit for defeating his team.

Said Babcock, “I thought we did tons of good stuff. We obviously have to get our power play going.

Our power play wasn’t good enough, even though the first one we kept them in there the whole two minutes, I didn’t think that was giving us any life. Other than that we played a good game, you play like that most nights, you’re gonna win. …. I didn’t think they had momentum ever, to tell you the truth. They scored a goal, we came right back and scored another one, to make it 2-2. …I don’t know about frustrating, that’s a waste of time. We’ve done lots of good things and we weren’t rewarded. … I thought we prepared well, I thought we played hard. And we weren’t rewarded, but in the long-term we will be.”

Over on the Flyers’ side, coach Craig Berube recognized that his team had been outplayed for 40 minutes. Thankfully, goaltender Ray Emery and the defense stepped up in its own-zone play.

Said Berube, “I thought the guys did a good job of keeping things to the outside. But it’s just too much time in our own end. You gotta kill plays, you got to be more aggressive and get numbers in there. They did a good job of boxing guys out, blocking shots, keeping them to the outside. … I think we realized [with the game tied 1-1 at the second intermission] if we go play the period the way we can, we might win the hockey game. I thought that there was a lot more life, a lot more energy in the third period than there was in the first two.”

Not coincidentally, Berube conducted a lengthy up-tempo practice at the Skate Zone on Sunday. Afterwards, he told reporters that he wanted his team to recognize there are still many areas of needed improvement despite the team’s 3-1-0 record over the last four games.

“It’s a reminder that you can’t get comfortable when you win,” said Berube. “You win a game here, but there is too much high and low. You got to stay focused, even keel. We talked about that before. Consistency is a big thing in the National Hockey League. And our hockey club has to learn to be more consistent.”

Hockey coaches often talk about winning being a process and not just a result. In other words, there may be a few games here and there where the club plays well enough to win but the end result is a loss. There may be a few games — such as Saturday’s — where the team is significantly outplayed but still finds a win. Nevertheless, in the bigger picture, it’s all about playing a responsible two-way game as a team.

Ultimately, if the club wants to have reproducible good outcomes, it has to be the club that wins most of the puck battles in a game. The Flyers do that sporadically. They also are prone to long stretches where they spend too much time pinned in their defensive zone and struggle to clear the puck. There are still too many lapses in team defense, both the defensemen and the forwards.

Additionally, there are too many stretches where the club stops skating and the club can’t even reliably dump pucks in with active forechecking pursuit much less carry pucks into the offensive zone. There are still prolonged segments where opposition breakouts and zone entries are too easy and the ones for Philly are elusive.

Most of all, the Flyers simply cannot afford to chase games on a regular basis. Yes, they are one of the premiere comeback teams in the NHL, but playing from behind every night is NOT a process conducive to winning regularly. The Flyers have yielded the game’s first goal in seven of eight matches thus far.

Considering the fact that the Flyers have played a very tough schedule in October, they are fortunate to be 3-3-2 right now. Comeback ability can only take a team so far.

Come tomorrow night, the Flyers play the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. No team in the NHL is better at playing the puck possession game combined with skill, size and grinding ability than LA. Even when the Kings struggled for goals for much of the regular season last year, their even strength goals for/ goals against ratio was stellar.

Good special teams are, of course, very valuable but the process of being able to consistently achieve favorable outcomes starts at five-on-five.

Improved five-on-five play was the Flyers’ number one goal heading into this season, along with greater discipline and conditioning. The first goal has remained a bit elusive and cannot be blamed solely on injuries.

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