When Craig Berube took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, he vowed to focus first and foremost on “team defense.”
“We need to play better without the puck,” Berube said. “When you play good hockey without the puck, the team comes together and does the right things to get the puck back and to keep the puck out of your net.”
The next day, the Flyers beat the Panthers, 2-1, to earn their first win of the season.
Granted, it was hardly a picture-perfect defensive performance, as Florida still managed to get 34 shots on Steve Mason, who was rightly honored as the game’s first star.
But hey, these things take time.
Today, Mason offered his support for Berube’s commitment to an improved defense, even if others are focused more on the offensive woes of star forwards like Claude Giroux.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Mason said, per Philly.com. “We’re trying to clean things up and make sure our in-zone plays are more calm and less scrambly than in the first few games and obviously in preseason. I think everybody felt that we were running around, and when you’re doing that, things become a lot more difficult.”
On that note, we wonder what Ilya Bryzgalov thinks of Berube’s strategy. You may remember back in June when Bryzgalov’s agent, Ritch Winter, went on the radio and ripped the Flyers’ defensive system under former head coach Peter Laviolette.
The New Jersey Devils made slumping forward Mike Cammalleri a healthy scratch for the first time in his career on Saturday evening for their 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, and he was not exactly thrilled about it.
He will remain a healthy scratch on Sunday night for the second half of their home-and-home series with the Islanders, most likely because NHL coaches are hesitant to make any sort of change to a lineup after a win.
That means with the Devils winning on Saturday, Cammalleri remains in the press box on Sunday.
With 17 points in his first 18 games this season Cammalleri was off to a promising start for the Devils. But everything has been downhill for him ever since with no goals in his past 18 games, only one in his past 33.
He has 12 assists during that same stretch.
This past week Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby became the 86th player in league history to record 1,000 points in the NHL when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He is the 11th youngest player to reach the milestone, doing so at age 29 and making an already massive accomplishment that much more impressive when you consider the low scoring era he has played in.
Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins’ first home game since Crosby reached the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night, the team honored with a pre-game ceremony that included a golden stick and a plaque made out of the roof of the old Civic Arena, the building in Pittsburgh that Crosby played in for the first five years of his career.
Check out the ceremony in the video above.
This season Crosby is second in the NHL scoring race with 64 points in 51 games, trailing Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid by three points (McDavid has played in eight more games). Crosby also leads the league with 31 goals entering play on Sunday.
More: Sidney Crosby records 1,000th career point
The New York Rangers are on some kind of a roll right now.
They were winners for the seventh time in their past eight games thanks to their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon and have now won 10 of their past 13 games to put a pretty massive gap between them and the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (they are now 13 points ahead of Boston).
Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello provided the offense on Sunday afternoon, with Zuccarello’s third period goal — his 12th of the season — going in the books as the game-winner.
It was also another strong day for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he continues to regain his form after a tough first half of the season. With Sunday’s 29-save performance he has now won nine of his past 12 starts since Jan. 18. During that stretch he has allowed two goals or less in eight of those starts and has an overall save percentage of .936 during that stretch.
The crazy thing about this run for the Rangers is that for as good as they have been, and for as many wins as they have stacked up in recent weeks, they are still in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and relegated to a wild card spot because the three teams ahead of them (Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus) keep collecting points. The Rangers are still two points back of the Blue Jackets (and if Columbus wins on Sunday night, it would be back to four points).
Just for some perspective on that, if they were in the Atlantic Division they would have a seven point lead. They would have a one-point lead over San Jose. They would be in second place in the Central.
For the Capitals, Sunday’s game was their second loss in a row coming out of their bye week after they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Detroit on Saturday.
It is the first time the Capitals have dropped consecutive games since Dec. 27 and 29. It is only the sixth time it has happened all season. They have lost more than two games in a row just once this season and never more than three in a row.
The Ottawa Senators have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division on Sunday evening if they can beat the Winnipeg Jets.
If they are going to do it they will have to do so without the services of forward Bobby Ryan.
The team announced on Sunday afternoon, less than three hours before puck drop against the Jets, that Ryan is going to be sidelined indefinitely due to a hand injury pending further evaluation.
The team says Ryan was injured in the third period of Saturday’s win over Toronto when he was hit in the hand by a puck.
In 50 games this season Ryan has 12 goals and 12 assists. He has been going through a bit of a scoring slump in recent weeks with only three points in his past eight games. He has also registered just 14 shots on goal during that stretch, including a pair of games where he failed to register even one.
The Senators enter play on Saturday just two points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division. A win over the Jets would move them into a tie and, for the time being, give them the tiebreaker edge due to having played in fewer games.