Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

The Flyers lost out on Ryane Clowe, who wound up going to
the New York Rangers. They sat on their hands as Jaromir Jagr was shipped off
to the Boston Bruins. And according to reports, they were beat out for
26-year-old netminder Ben Bishop, who the Ottawa Senators wound up sending to
the Tampa Bay Lightning instead.

The Flyers did not come away empty-handed at the trade
deadline however, nor without a goalie, sending Michael Leighton and a
third-round pick in 2015 to Columbus in exchange for Steve Mason. With that, it
didn’t take very long for speculation to swirl over the future of one Ilya
Bryzgalov, because of course it didn’t.

Mason, 24, has been trending downward ever since his stellar
rookie season in 2008-09 when he led the NHL with 10 shutouts. He played just
46 games last season – the lowest total of his career – and finally surrendered
the starting job to Sergei Bobrovsky this year, posting a 3-6-1 record with a
2.95 goals against average and .899 save percentage.

Some have described it as ironic that the Flyers traded for
Bob’s backup. The real irony here is that they had to trade a goaltender
(Leighton) for goaltender help. But I digress.

Despite the fact that Mason has been increasingly less
impressive as the years have gone by, the natural leap is this acquisition sets
the team up to amnesty Bryzgalov in the offseason. This is fueled by several
factors, chiefly that there is some dissatisfaction with Bryz’s performance and
contract, but also that the Flyers were chasing young goalies at the deadline
to begin with.

There’s also the matter of Mason’s contract. He’ll become a
restricted free agent this summer, when at that time if the Flyers would like
to retain the player’s services they must render a qualifying offer that
matches his salary of $3.2 million, with a contract length of up to two years.

When combined with Bryzgalov’s average salary of $5.67 million,
that would be almost $9 million tied up in goaltending for the next two seasons.
That sounds like a lot.

So  a case can be made
that the Flyers are preparing to separate from Bryz, and the first step was to
acquire a cheaper option, in this case a salvage project. Paul Holmgren didn’t
exactly pour cold water all over the possibility, either. The general manager
told reporters the organization views Mason as part of the future.

“We see him as one of our two goalies, not only the rest of
this year, but moving forward," Holmgren said. "We’ll just leave it
at that for now.”

Then again, Homer was also optimistic they could reach a
deal with Mason that would pay him less than the value of the qualifying offer.
If that were true, it changes the dynamics quite a bit.

The Flyers have had to learn the hard way about going cheap
on a backup. We understood the reasoning behind it, that being Bryz is a goalie
who commands a lot of ice time, and they were up against the salary cap as
usual. Unfortunately it’s backfired. Head coach Peter Laviolette literally could
not afford to use Leighton or Brian Boucher, so Billy will be starting his 20th
straight game on Wednesday.

This trade may very well boil down to nothing more than
filling an obvious need. There’s even evidence to support that line of thinking.
Ed Snider defended Bryzgalov as recently as this past weekend, essentially
absolving the maligned netminder of the club’s issues.

“I don't think Bryzgalov has been the problem,” Snider said.
“I mean, he's had to face so many breakaways and 2-on-1s where we turn over the
puck suddenly. I think it's the team. I think we're fine in goal.”

Digging even further into the theory that ownership stands
behind Bryz is the reality that Snider wanted Homer to put an end to the goalie
carousel in Philly once and for all. You can argue whether signing the
cosmonaut to a nine-year deal – not to mention his 15-14-3 record, 2.81 GAA,
and .900 SV% this season – has truly accomplished that or not, yet where
exactly does Mason fit in with that vision?

Not to rule out the organization using amnesty on Bryzgalov
completely, if for no other reason than the Flyers might not wish to cut him
checks up to his 40th birthday, but this move doesn’t quite lend the appearance
that is indeed their intent. Bryz’s salary is not as excessive as many people
like to make it seem (8th in average salary among goalies this year), and the
front office doesn’t believe he’s the problem.

We shall see. As for the trade itself, it’s no blockbuster,
but certainly wise to pick up somebody that might be able to give Bryzgalov a
breather. Meanwhile, Mason flashed serious potential early in his career, so
who knows what could happen if he can recapture it. I’m just not convinced you’ll
ever see that for Philly on any kind of regular basis.

>>
Flyers acquire goalie Steve Mason from Columbus [CSN]

>> Flyers trade for goaltender Steve Mason [Frequent
Flyers]

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).