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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Berube critical to Flyers' penalty-kill success

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 4:29 PM / Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor


VOORHEES, N.J. -- Craig Berube began his coaching career as an assistant to John Stevens with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League during the 2004-05 season. When Stevens replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in October 2006, Berube moved up as well to become Stevens' top assistant.

That partnership came to an end in December 2009 when Stevens was fired. Peter Laviolette came on board, and suddenly Berube wasn't 100-percent sure where he stood with the new boss.

"I didn't know Peter at all," Berube told NHL.com after practice Tuesday. "But you just work with a guy and get to know him. It all works out."

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It's worked out quite well for the Flyers, with Berube taking charge of the team's penalty killing, which played a major role in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers allowed nine goals on 29 Pittsburgh power plays in the six games, but four of them came on nine chances in the Pens' 10-3 win in Game 4. Remove that game, and the Flyers did a very solid job of 15 kills in 20 chances, and nearly outscored the Pens' power play with three shorthanded goals.

"I think Chief [Berube] does a great job in the direction and presenting what it is they need to know," Laviolette said.

For the Pittsburgh series, the key was pressuring the Penguins point players to either force bad passes or turnovers the Flyers could use to create scoring chances.

"That's something that's part of the system, we did that most of the season," Maxime Talbot told NHL.com. "But we did that really better this week. Scoring goals on the penalty kill gave us something and maybe took away [from the Penguins], gave them doubt at the same time."

Added Berube: "We do want to put pressure on people and not give them time to make decisions. If we can be aggressive ... and not letting them get set up. A team like Pittsburgh, if you can limit their setups you're doing a good job."

The entire structure of the penalty kill in the series was perfect, meaning the players could react, rather than think about where they had to be or what they had to do.

"[Berube] prepared us really well," Talbot, who led all Flyers forwards with an average shorthanded ice time of 4:01 per game against the Penguins, said. "We were prepared, but at the same time I think we were fast and aggressive and we knew ... we didn't ask ourselves questions, it was automatic. That's how we had to play."

Credit for that, of course, goes to the players, but also to Berube, who made sure his units were deployed in all the right spots.

But beyond the strategy and video work, what makes Berube so good is the fact that he knows just about every situation a player can encounter in the regular season or playoffs.

Undrafted after playing four seasons in the Western Hockey League, he played 1,047 NHL games in 16 seasons (1986-2003) with five different teams, including two stints with the Flyers. He had 61 goals and is sixth all-time with 3,149 penalty minutes, while being regarded as one of the toughest players of his generation.

"He does a good job of scouting other teams and picking up what they're going to be doing and coming up with good plans for us and strategies," defenseman Braydon Coburn, who averaged a team-high 4:38 of ice time per game shorthanded, told NHL.com. "But the thing that's great about [Berube] is he'll talk to guys and see what they think and see if you're comfortable doing what he's going to be asking you to do. ... He understands what certain guys' abilities are and what he expects for us. That's the best thing -- he knows what you can expect out there."

Laviolette and Berube weren't sure what they could expect out of each other, but it didn't take long for the two men to get on the same page.

"I think that you grow over time," Laviolette said. "You develop relationships. Things don't always happen right away. You go through experiences. Craig has been a really loyal guy and very smart.

"I think [Berube] is a terrific coach. He's a smart guy. Since I've been here I've leaned on him and trusted him a lot."

For Berube, it's been a whole new experience, one that he says has made him a better coach.

"Peter was really good with me and let me do my thing and trusted me," he said. "That's a big thing, and it went from there. I just think that I evolved as a coach under him because I learned stuff -- new things. He brought such an offensive side to the game. Just an attack-oriented style I really never was coached under. And I think that's how I evolved with him. It's good having another coach that does something different and learn from him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory