3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center from the perspective of three players who each made a major impact on the game.

Despite the outcome, that was an awesome hockey game. It had everything a hockey fan could ever want. Can we get some three-on-three extended overtime, please, NHL?

Mar 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) takes a break against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Penguins, 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

3. Steve Mason

The Flyers netminder may not have made as many saves as his Bruins counterpart on Sunday afternoon, but Mason was just as excellent and really kept the Flyers in the game with some huge stops in the third period as his teammates tried to knot things up.

First, he made an excellent blocker save on a tricky wrist shot from Bruins winger Daniel Paille as Paille cut down the wing and used Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen.  Shortly after, Mason made a remarkable save on the Bruins Carl Soderberg, who had beaten Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, held on to the puck to get Mason moving and had an open net to shoot at. Or so he thought because Mason sprawled out and absolutely robbed him.

The NBC announcers even said to remember those saves if the Flyers came back, which they eventually did.

Sure, Mason wants to have Patrice Bergeron’s second-period goal back. It was a weak one from a bad angle that snuck underneath him. But Mason was there for his team when it needed him most. His glove hand was on point all game, too.

All told, Mason made 27 stops on the day and most were not of the easy variety.

He and the Flyers deserved a better fate at the end but so is life. A point is a point at this time of the year.

2. Vinny Lecavalier

It’s well known around these parts that Flyers head coach Craig Berube demoted Lecavalier, the Flyers’ prized offseason free-agent signing, from the second-line wing position to the fourth-line center spot before this past Friday’s game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lecavalier responded on Friday with a goal and one of his best games of the season. He continued to respond on Sunday with two goals, an impressive milestone and his best game of the year.

The 33-year-old opened the scoring when he blew a slapshot from the slot past Rask just over five minutes into the game. The goal was Lecavalier’s 400th of his career. No matter how you look at it, that’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment.

Then, with his team down a goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Lecavalier capped off a frantic scramble near the net by slamming home a loose puck to tie the game at three. That sent the game to overtime and allowed the Flyers to earn that crucial point in the standings.

The goals were his 17th and 18th of the year, respectively.

Getting demoted to the fourth line obviously had to be punch to the gut for a guy as accomplished as Lecavalier. But sometimes it can be a motivator for a player of that caliber and we’ve seen that over the past few games. He, Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo even seem to have some chemistry together.  Being back at his natural center position can’t hurt either.

Maybe Lecavalier is starting to peak at the right time. If he continues this kind of play down the stretch, he makes the Flyers that much more dangerous.

 

1. Tuukka Rask

If you wondered why Rask entered Sunday’s game as the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, he sure showed you and the Flyers why.

The Bruins goalie made 49 saves and a few more in the shootout to earn the victory for his team. And boy, did he ever earn it.

The Flyers dominated the game for stretches at a time and especially poured it on in the third period. But Rask had every answer until that kooky, bouncy play that tied the game in the waning seconds.

His save on a Claude Giroux shot near the end of the second period when he dove across the net to rob the Flyers captain was pretty remarkable.

The dude stood on his head the entire game. What a performance.

 

Outside of lackluster second period when the Bruins really carried the play and momentum, the Flyers again showed they can hang with the big boys of the league. Sure, the shootout loss was a pretty crummy ending but that point was well-deserved. They deserved a better fate but that point is clutch.

These two teams meet again this upcoming Saturday in Boston but next up on the schedule from hell is a trip to St. Louis on Tuesday.

NBA Power Rankings: The Sixers remain in the bottom third of the NBA

NBA Power Rankings: The Sixers remain in the bottom third of the NBA

The most recent NBA power rankings have the Sixers dropping further or remaining in the lower third of the NBA. 

Recent news of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ injury situations have the experts assuming the season is a lost cause and the team is focused on this June’s draft.

A trade of Nerlens Noel confirms the Sixers are banking on building around Embiid and wanted to get a return on Noel instead of letting him walk at the end of the season.

Last week
The Sixers split their only two games of the week: A 120-112 win against the Wizards Friday night and a buzzer-beater 110-109 loss to the Knicks Saturday night.

Against the Wizards, Robert Covington recorded a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds – both team leaders. The Sixers had seven players in double-digit points including Dario Saric and Gerald Henderson both pouring in 20. The Sixers did not give up the lead after the beginning of the second quarter. 

Carmelo Anthony drained a game-winning shot on Saturday for the Knicks. Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 28 points while Saric added 19 and Covington tallied 20. 

This week
• Tonight, the Sixers face the Warriors in Philadelphia (7 p.m./CSN)

• Wednesday against the Heat in Miami (7:30 p.m./CSN)

• Friday they face the Knicks at home (7 p.m./CSN)

• Saturday they stay at the Wells Fargo Center for the Pistons (6 p.m./CSN)

What the experts say
John Schuhmann of NBA.com was gracious only dropping the Sixers from 21 to 22 this past week. Maybe he trusts the process. 

He makes a good point about Okafor's situation after the Noel trade:

“The Sixers have been at their worst offensively with Okafor on the floor, but he scored 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting on Saturday, getting two huge, final-minute buckets in the post before Carmelo Anthony hit the game-winner. He may not be the better fit, but he has two more years on his rookie deal.”

Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report dropped the Sixers to 24 on his list, three spots lower than last week. 

He took a look into Embiid’s efficiently in the post and found some interesting numbers from Chris Herring of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight:

“The 7-footer has really been in a giving mood near the basket, where he's coughed the ball up on nearly 22 percent of his post-up looks, the highest turnover rate among NBA players with at least 100 plays, according to Synergy. And his turnover rate jumps up to a whopping 32 percent when teams aggressively send a second defender to double Embiid in the post."

Hughes ended his piece by saying the Sixers look to be on a downturn for the rest of the season. 

Jeremy Wood of Sports Illustrated moved the Sixers one spot from last week which leaves them at 26 on his list. 

He questions “trusting the process” stating that there are many questions surrounding Bryan Colangelo and the front office after the Noel trade. 

“It’s a longer-term question, but there will be short-term clues.”

Couldn’t have said it any better. 

Finally, Matt Moore of CBS Sports drops the Sixers from 22 to 26 this week. Moore is starting to see a repetitive story with the Sixers and it’s struggles. 

“Usually if a team loses both its top picks in a rebuilding year, you feel awful for them and their fans. With the Sixers, you're left just feeling like this is the status quo, forever.”

Villanova keeps No. 2 ranking despite another loss to Butler

Villanova keeps No. 2 ranking despite another loss to Butler

Villanova remained the No. 2 team in the nation in Monday's AP poll after a 1-1 week.

'Nova split its two games against a pair of ranked teams, losing by eight points at home to No. 22 Butler on Wednesday before rebounding for a 16-point win over No. 23 Creighton Saturday.

The Wildcats are 27-3 and 14-3 in the Big East, losing to Butler two times by eight points apiece and to Marquette by two.

Butler moved up from 22 to 13.

Villanova kept its No. 2 ranking because of a loss by previous No. 1 Gonzaga. The Zags moved down to fourth, while Kansas jumped up from No. 3 to No. 1.

Kansas received 58 first-place votes. Villanova and Gonzaga received two apiece, with the remaining three going to No. 3 UCLA.

Villanova has just one regular season game remaining Saturday at Georgetown.