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.
Noteworthy move out of Pittsburgh on Tuesday — the Pens have waived 31-year-old Eric Fehr.
Fehr, in the last of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit, has appeared in 55 games this season, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.
He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.
Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He was a good PK contributor, and did play over 10 minutes in Saturday’s outdoor game win over the Flyers, registering an assist.
The immediate speculation is that Pens GM Jim Rutherford waived Fehr to clear some cap space for a future deal. Rutherford already acquired Ron Hainsey to help bandage the Pens’ defense, and could be pushed to make another splash in the wake of Washington’s blockbuster deal to get Kevin Shattenkirk.
If the St. Louis Blues were enjoying another season like they enjoyed last year, they wouldn’t have traded Kevin Shattenkirk.
But in the words of GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues are currently “in a precarious playoff spot,” so yesterday Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington for a haul that included a first-round draft pick in 2017 and 22-year-old forward Zach Sanford.
“It just felt that where we are and where we need to go, it was time to make a move,” Armstrong said.
“I think when we got through last year’s playoffs, knowing that we were going to be entering unrestricted free agency with a number of players over a two- or three-year span, we wanted to turn the tide over to a different core group of players, and this just continues down that path.”
Armstrong listed Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, and Robby Fabbri as parts of the new core.
“There’s change in this game,” said Armstrong. “All organizations go through it.”
The Blues enter tonight’s game against the Oilers just two points clear of the Kings for the second wild-card spot in the West.
The Ottawa Senators made Alex Burrows‘ contract extension official this morning.
The day after acquiring the 35-year-old forward from Vancouver, the Sens announced that Burrows had signed a two-year, $5 million extension with a 10-team no-trade clause.
Ottawa gave up 19-year-old prospect Jonathan Dahlen to get Burrows from the Canucks.
“I think we’ve become a tougher team to play against and with the acquisition of Alex Burrows we’ve become an even tougher team to play against,” said GM Pierre Dorion, per the Ottawa Sun. “We all know how games are at this time of the year and, hopefully, when our team gets in the playoffs, how they’re grinding, difficult games.
“Getting someone of Alex’s character is something we couldn’t turn (away from). Our players have done exactly what we’ve asked of them. They’ve played hard, they’ve played a system and we just felt it was time to add another piece. In Alex Burrows, we’re ecstatic to have that piece.”
After last night’s 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay, the Sens only have a four-point playoff cushion, so there’s still work to be done down the stretch.
Ottawa hosts Colorado Thursday.
Related: Canucks GM says he isn’t done after trading ‘heart and soul’ guy Burrows
Chicago re-upped with a pair of veteran skaters on Tuesday, agreeing to one-year contract extensions with d-man Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo.
At first glance, these deals certainly appear to be expansion draft-related. The Sun-Times notes this will allow ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman to protect former first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who’s enjoying a breakout campaign with 15 goals through 57 games.
Rozsival, 38, has been the more active of today’s signees, appearing in 51 contests while notching a pair of points. He’s won a pair of Stanley Cups in Chicago.
Tootoo, 34, was signed last summer and has appeared in 36 games. He’s gone scoreless while racking up 21 PIM.
Rozsival’s current deal pays $600,000, while Tootoo’s is at $750,000. Terms of their extensions weren’t released but it’s fair to suggest the dollar figures will be similar, given Chicago’s pressed right up against the cap ceiling.
Bowman certainly seems to be getting his house in order ahead of the aforementioned expansion draft. Last week, he inked journeyman goalie Jeff Glass to a two-year deal, another move that appeared to be with Vegas in mind.