Blogs > Jack McCaffery's blog

Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Berube enjoyed his first postseason as head coach



NEW YORK --- Craig Berube was a Stanley Cup playoffs rookie at the beginning of the Flyers-Rangers series, his first as an NHL head coach. By the time it whipped into its seventh game, he'd already had the full range of experience.

He'd changed goalies. He'd dealt with injuries. He'd scrambled lines, attempting to work certain players out of slumps. He'd matched and countered and re-countered the Rangers' lines. He'd adjusted defensive pairings. He'd tried young players and old.

And whatever would happen Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, he figured he'd be most prepared for the next time.

“I like coaching,” Berube said, as the series was about to go the distance. “And that is what I am dong. All that stuff goes into coaching. It's what you have to do as a coach --- make adjustments, do certain things. Things happen. Injuries happen. We lost Nik Grossmann and had to put different people in the lineup.

“It's all part of it.”

So it was, all of the personnel changes, all of the in-game maneuvers. But so, too, was the mental preparation, with Berube having maneuvered through the series never allowing the Flyers to sag into a two-game losing streak.

“Today, we just went over a few things and had a meeting,” he said, as the teams prepared to play for the second time in as many nights. “I told them it's important that we get skating right away. It's two good teams, and you have to be ready from the start.

“I haven’t done anything different, to be honest with you,” he added. “Like I said, I try to keep it as normal as we can. It's a big game. I have to keep my emotions in check. The players do, too.”

The Flyers started the series with a loss, but recovered and ultimately forced Game 7 with a 5-2 victory in Game 6, their best, to that point, in the playoffs. In it, Berube made multiple successful moves, including dressing Erik Gustafsson, who would score a goal.

By Wednesday, he was just ready for a series verdict.

“Thinking about the series before it started, I thought it would be a long one for sure,” he said. “I thought the teams were fairly equal. We split during the regular season, home and home. So I thought looking at that side of it, it was going to be a long series.”

The first, he'd hoped, in a no-longer-early coaching career.

Column on Flyers' Game 6 victory

n Wayne Simmonds with the tricked-out effort.
n Steve Mason was magical.
n Rick Nash makes too much money to play like that.
n Henrik Lundqvist never saw Period No. 3.
PHILADELPHIA — It was the spring, and it was hockey, and the Flyers were three losses into a playoff series Tuesday. Craig Berube, for one, was not about to accept the usual.
He’d been aware of the situation since 1986, as a player, as an observer from afar, as the head coach since the third game of this season. And he’d seen it all. Mostly, though, he’d seen too many emotionless exits.
The Flyers have specialized in that ever since ever since they began to stalk their third Stanley Cup in the middle 1970s. Every spring, all but one NHL team will be eliminated. But few can do it like the Flyers, who have been ousted in everything from blue-line goals, to goals that the fans and the goaltender never see, to defeats so lacking in urgency that the head coach could charge them with being in a “choking situation” and get away with it.
Send the Flyers into an elimination game, and chances are their captain will be concussed, their goaltender will be pulled, their chairman will blame the refs or the fans will boo the general manager — all on the same night, if necessary.
So what were the signs Tuesday that it would be any different in Game 6 of a first-round series against the New York Rangers? Weren’t the Flyers thoroughly outperformed a couple of days earlier in Madison Square Garden? Hadn’t they been sloppy in their end, too slow to make the proper pass, too inconsistent in everything?
Weren’t they ready to hustle over to Voorhees in a couple of days, rip the coach a little bit, then promise to return in August and try it all again?
Or was it possible to detect something different this time?
“It’s hard,” Berube was saying, trying to gauge the pregame mood. “It’s real hard. I think the guys are focused. I haven’t gone into the locker room — or to practice or anything else — and said, ‘My team’s not focused.’, or, ‘Our team is focused and is ready to play.’
“It’s a hard thing to pick out.”
So he wouldn’t wait for it. Instead, he would act. And because he did, the Flyers didn’t just win Game 6, 5-2, they so dominated it that it will be the Rangers could themselves be shaken as the series reaches Game 7 Wednesday in the Garden.
Berube changed his defense, replacing Hal Gill and activating Erik Gustafsson. And Gustafsson would score a goal. He changed his lines, trying Claude Giroux with Michael Raffl, and later with Vinny Lecavalier. Giroux scored for the second consecutive game. After auditioning Brayden Schenn on the top line in Game 5, Tuesday he reunited him with Wayne Simmonds, who would score a hat trick.
Suddenly, everything Berube tried was working. But nothing worked more than his No. 1 demand: Don’t let the season end, not in that familiar manner.
“We need to get people in the battle more,” he said. “I think we’ve made it too easy on the Rangers. You’ve got to skate and you’ve got to be more aggressive. They are a fast team, and I think we are worried about their speed a little too much.”
Early Tuesday, the Flyers should have been more concerned with their play than what the Rangers were up to, turning the puck over nine times in the first period. But in the leading indicator that there was something different about them this spring, there they were, threatened by elimination … and with a goaltender able to dominate.
Whether by covering the goal line with his pads, snapping pucks out of the sky with his glove, denying rebounds or cutting down angles, Steve Mason was giving the Flyers the change-the-series-level goaltender they had historically lacked.
Aware of that, they were able to breathe. When they were, they were able to execute. When they did, they were able to win.
So it’s on to Game 7, the Flyers still lugging around that franchise history. But they will go into the Garden with the hotter goaltender, fresh line combinations and a chance to see Round 2.
They are still facing elimination. It just seems different this spring.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Berube: No line changes

Craig Berube met with the press shortly before Game 4 of the Flyers-Rangers series Friday.

This was the conversation:

Any plans for Scott Laughton?

“Not right now. He’ll be practicing with the extra guys and stuff like that.”

How about later in the playoffs?

“We’ll see. We’ll see. Can’t think that far ahead right now.”

Comparing and contrasting, what does Steve Mason bring to the table that Ray Emery might not?

“I don’t know. He’s been our guy all year and stuff. He handles the puck pretty good. He can make plays with that puck and get it out of our end quickly, which is good. It saves time in our end. Both goalies have played great all year for us, but Mase has been our guy and he is ready to go.”

In your experience, can you pinpoint a time when a goalie entered and came to the rescue in a playoff series?

“Well, Kenny Wregget came in in Game 7 in Pittsburgh in 1989.  He had a big game. Played well.”

Can a change of pace itself help with a different goalie?

“Yeah, I mean, looking back at Game 3, we had a lot of good things in that game, and I think we’ve just got to build off of it. And I think we have to execute better. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

How important is scoring first?

“Well, we scored first in Game 1 and lost. They scored first in Game 2 and we won. It does matter, though, obviously. You don’t want to get down, 2-0, in a game. We’ve done that two games in a row. So for sure, we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Is it too early to start talking to the players about taking it shift-by-shift, period-by-period?

“Well, I think we do anyhow. I don’t believe you should look far ahead. You go out there tonight, and everybody, on their first shift, that’s what they should be thinking about --- doing things right, doing things fast and getting some momentum.”

Any thoughts of line changes?

“I’ve stayed with the same thing. I don’t know about switching guys up. I mean, I think I’ll see how the game goes here, and if I have to make some adjustments in-game, I will.”

Is Mason’s stick-handling something you need, with the way he can make the outlet pass?

“Like I said, he fires it up pretty quick and he rips it around that board and stuff, so I think that gets us in an attack mentality, sort of, and maybe we can get a couple bounces and get some odd-man rushes off that, too.”

Is that the way a goalie helps? Emery gets 1.9 goals a game of help, Mason 3.03 --- that is a big difference.

“That stat is a little bit … I don’t know. There’s goalies throughout the league that don’t get much. Like (Cory) Schneider in Jersey this year got very little goal support. His numbers were good, but his wins and losses weren’t because of it. So who knows why that happens? I don’t believe that has anything to do with so much the goalies. It’s just how it goes.”










Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Berube: Picking Emery 'not difficult at all.'

Craig Berube met with the press about an hour before Game 3 of the Flyers-Rangers playoff series.

This is the conversation:

Since Steve Mason is the backup tonight, does that mean he is totally healthy?



“Ray (Emery) won Game 2. Ray's played well. (Mason) is healthy. So we made a decision after practice. He's going to back-up tonight.”

Was it a difficult decision?

“No, I don't think. It was the decision I made.”

Does that mean you are game-to-game at this point? If Emery keeps winning, will he keep starting?

That's it. He's playing tonight.”

Did Mason not play well enough down the stretch to get his job back?

“That has nothing to do with it. He was injured. And he's better. So he's going to back up tonight.”

Mason said Monday he wasn't going to be ready. What changed?

“He's ready. And he feels like he wants to get in there and be the backup. So we talked and made the decision, and he's going to back up tonight.”

Did he have to get medical clearance?


Did he have to take a baseline test?

“No. I don't know anything about that.”

How much of this was Mason's call to get back in?

“It's always part of the players' call.”

More this time than usual?

“No. I think that we sit down and discuss it with the player.”   

“After practice, I talked to the media, went back in there, sat down with Mase and Razor. We all thought it was a good idea.”

Have anything to do with practice time?

“(Mason) has practiced. I know he was out there yesterday. There was a bunch of guys out there. He had some good practice time yesterday. He had some good practice time in New York, too.”

You’re comfortable with Mason, if something happened to Emery?

“Yeah. That’s why he’s backing up. I would never do that to a player.”

Switching gears, is Steve Downie ruled out for whole series?

“You’ll have to talk to Paul Holmgren about that.”

Difficult decision for head coach, in regard to goaltenders?

“What do you mean, difficult? I don’t think it’s difficult at all. I think Ray’s played well. Ray just came off a big win. It’s not a difficult decision.”

Downie sits out last two games of regular season. Was he being benched, ill, etc?
“A little bit of both. He made those mistakes and, obviously, I was not happy. There’s other things, so…”

Problems that led to his blanking out on the ice?
“Is that what happened?”

Well, being absent-minded on coverages. Maybe medical issues…

“I don’t know. I’m not going to go there.”

Friday, April 18, 2014

Transcript of Steve Mason interview with press


Flyers G Steve Mason skated Friday at Chelsea Piers in New York City.  Below is a transcript of his comments in a media availability afterwards.

Flyers G Steve Mason

“It was a pretty controlled setting and it felt good.”

Steve, do you expect to be available on Sunday?

“I’ll try my best.”

Does something have to click in for you to feel like, will you know mentally or are you depending on the doctors? Do you think you’ll have that feeling that you know I’m good to go?

“I’ll know exactly when I’m ready to go physically, but it’s also management and doctors’ decision as well.”

What do you remember from that play where you were injured?

“I remember everything.”

Can you describe what happened?

“I made a save on Crosby coming down my right-hand side, the rebound kicked to my left and was just looking to try and get a stick on it and Mac [Andrew MacDonald] was kind of in a helpless position when he got pushed into me.”

How frustrating was it to sit out last night’s game?

“Very frustrating. This is a time that you’ve worked all season to get to, and to see the team go out there and a playoff atmosphere in Madison Square Garden where the stakes are so high, that’s something you don’t want to be sitting out and watching. It was difficult. Especially since the result, I think everybody expects a much better game on Sunday. I don’t think anybody was happy with the way that the team played.”

Steve, was there anything specific that you were working on in drills today or were they just kind of generic goalie drills?

“Just stuff that we’ve worked on all season long. Like I said, I haven’t skated a whole lot in the last few days, so to get out there and have a controlled setting and kind of just get back to basics and have a good goalie practice.”

It looked like you were tracking. What were you tracking, the puck? Just the way they were passing it around, is that one of the things you were doing?

“Yeah just drilling and practice. We were doing skating drills, but it’s also, like you said, tracking. We did a lot of outside shots, it’s all just feel-good goalie stuff more than anything. It’s not really a practice for the skaters out there.”

In general terms, do you think there’s a good chance you’ll play? Fair chance you’ll play Sunday, poor chance? Great chance?

“I don’t want to comment on that.”

Do you feel you’re healthy or getting healthy?

“I’d rather not comment on that either.”

You are smiling. You weren’t smiling the other day.

“Definitely smiling. Like I said, things have been getting better each day, and we still have a couple days before Sunday rolls around, so that’s definitely my goal.”

How many concussions did you have before Saturday?

“Are you saying that I have a concussion?”

I’m saying before Saturday to evade that question.

“In my career, prior to you commenting on this, I’ve had two.”

What restriction muscle-wise when you turn your head to track the puck or when you slide you shoulders around, are you restricted in anyway?

“Nothing that would overly concern me.”

But a couple days you were restricted, weren’t you?

“I wasn’t feeling good a couple days ago.”

How did you handle the eagerness and anticipation to get back and how’d you reconcile that with wanting to conserve your long-term health?

“I think the team’s done a great job of that for me. As a player, you’re going to probably say you’re ready to go back before you actually are, just because you have that competitive nature. I think for myself, watching Ray last night, I think he played a great game so that kind of eases the feel of urgency in a sense because he was so strong. We’re just going to take this day by day and if I’m ready to go Sunday, then I’m ready to go. If not, Ray was definitely not the reason we came out on the losing end.”

Do you have to meet with doctors again before Sunday to get clearance?

“I believe so. I don’t know for sure, but I believe so.”

Steve, how much are you looking forward to this opportunity? It’s been a while for you in the playoffs.

“Yeah especially getting into Sunday’s game potentially and then going back to the Wells Fargo Center where by all accounts is probably one of the best playoff atmospheres in the league. So that’s something as a player, you look forward to. I know the guys in the dressing room are looking forward to winning on Sunday and getting back home and going from there. For myself personally, I haven’t been in this situation for a number of years and when we finally were able to clinch a playoff spot, this was something that…”

Will you need a full practice tomorrow? Will that be the determining factor?

“I’ll be practicing tomorrow, as far as I know.”


Brian Smith
Manager, Broadcasting & Media Services
Philadelphia Flyers
3601 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Description: cid:image001.jpg@01CF3959.C5781E90

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Friday, April 4, 2014

Giroux: No time to push 'panic button'

By JACK McCAFFERY @JackMcCaffery
VOORHEES, N.J. --- The Flyers, who have not scored a non-shootout goal in two games, practiced hard Friday at the Skate Zone.
They didn't yell, point fingers, demote anyone to the minors, instigate massive line changes or --- hey, around there, it's always possible --- fire the coach.
They worked.
That's it.
“I mean, you can't be worried about it,” Claude Giroux said. “It's only been a couple of games. And the last few months we have been doing a good job of getting some offense and playing as a team and getting the chemistry going. We just got away from it a little bit.
“We have six games to go. It's not time to hit the panic button. We just have to stay with the system, stay with what we are doing, and we will be just fine.”
The Flyers will take their system to Boston at 1 Saturday afternoon for their second test in a week against the Bruins, who have 111 points and 52 wins. Last Sunday, they lost, 4-3, to Boston, in a shootout at the Wells Fargo Center, Vinny Lecavalier scoring with 24 seconds left in regulation for force overtime.
They have not scored a non-shootout goal since, losing, 1-0, in a shootout in St. Louis, then 2-0 to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday.
“Worry is not something that we talk about,” Giroux said. “We don't worry about our game. We just need to be focused on what we have to do. We know how to play. We just have to go back to that.”
As he will, Craig Berube gathered the Flyers for a pre-practice on-ice talk Friday, then had them play mostly at game speed for about a 45-minute workout.
“I don't think we have to nip anything in the bud,” the head coach said, responding to a question. “It's two games. Go back and look at the St. Louis game. We had tons of chances. And we had chances (Thursday) night, when I thought the power play was good. So we have to make sure that our power play gets straightened out. But it is just about hard work and getting to the net and doing little things.
“Sometimes, this time of year, it tightens up and you don't get the easy goals. You have to work for things. You have to get to the net, get rebounds and get some dirty goals.”
l l l
Hal Gill, 39, has played in just four games for the Flyers this season. That doesn't mean he hasn't made a contribution.
That's why the Philly hockey writers Friday nominated the veteran defenseman for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which goes annually to that NHL player showing the most perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
One player from each NHL team will be nominated for the award, which will be presented in June.
Ian Laperriere (2011), Tim Kerr (1989) and Bobby Clarke (1972) have won the award for the Flyers.
“He's a great leader for an older, veteran guy who has been around,” Berube said. “What he has done for our hockey team this year --- showing support for the guys while not playing --- and how hard he works every day, it is pretty remarkable. He is a special guy. He really is. I've got a lot of respect for him.”
Gill joined the Flyers on a one-year contact after a tryout and has not played in a game since Dec. 21. But Friday, at least, he was one of the last players off the ice … as usual.
“I'm honored,” Gill said. “I have never won an individual award. There have been a lot of people who have persevered. I guess I am dedicated. I love hockey and I want to win. And everyone who has persevered or has overcome or has persevered has looked for one goal, and that is to win the Cup. So I guess I am not that different than anyone else.”
Gill won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009 … but would appreciate an encore.
“I am just trying to be as helpful as I can,” he said. “I try to be good in the locker room and help the team. I think that's part of being a teammate --- being supportive, being there and knowing your role.”
l l l
Lecavalier won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. Despite their recent inability to score, he does sense some championship-like characteristics in the Flyers.
“There is not going to be a 'perfect' year,” he said. “You're not going to be great every night. But if you look at the first 76 games and how the guys are in the room and on the ice, it's definitely a room with a lot of character. And it's a team you want to go into the playoffs with, for sure.”
l l l
NOTES: Wayne Simmonds and Andrew MacDonald were off Thursday for “maintenance days”, according to the Flyers … Steve Downie, who has not played since March 22 with a concussion, was not declared ready to play in Boston, though Berube said he would know more by Saturday morning … The Flyers will return to play the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night (7:30) at the Wells Fargo Center.