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Good Meltzer article...... Three Keys to Stretch Drive Success


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Good article.  Most we already know..but still good to reiterate.


The last thing the Flyers can afford is stumble out of the Olympic break the way they staggered off to a 1-7-0 start at the beginning of the season. Since that time, the Flyers have gone 29-16-6, including a 4-1-0 run heading into the break that included wins over the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks (Thursday night's opponents), Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames.

Three keys to success during the stretch drive:

1) COMMITMENT TO TEAM DEFENSE: When the Flyers make a team-wide commitment to defense, as they did during their California road trip and the early weeks of Craig Berube's tenure, they become a much tougher team to beat. It all starts with making sure that everyone keeps skating and maintaining good gap control.

When the Flyers do that, they spend much less time working to get out of their own zone and yield fewer transitional rushes off turnovers. Puck support and backchecking need to consistent characteristics of this team as the games continue to get tougher and tougher.

2) CONTINUED STRONG GOALTENDING: Apart from a few tough weeks in December and January most notable for a pair of six-game road trips, Steve Mason has been the Flyers' most valuable player this season. The Flyers will need him to come back off the Olympic break playing well and showing the form he had in October, November and his final four starts heading into the Olympic break.

In the meantime, backup Ray Emery has generally played better than his uninspiring season stat line looks. There have been a couple ugly games that got away from the Flyers that had little to do with Emery's play in those games.

3) EVEN STRENGTH PLAY: Power plays and penalty kills run hot and cold during the season, including those of the top special teams clubs in the NHL. The Flyers' power play got off to an abysmal start to the season, especially at home, but ended up in the top one-third of the NHL (19.6 percent, 10th overall) by the Olympic break. Likewise, the Flyers entered the Olympic break ranked seventh overall in penalty killing (84.6 percent).

Coming off the break it could take the Flyers and other clubs a few games to get one or both elements of special teams cranked up again. At least everyone is in the same boat.

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