Flyers-Wild: "Cat's Head Soup" Edition

Flyers-Wild: "Cat's Head Soup" Edition

We've just about reached that blue-in-the-face point in the season. With only nine games left, there ain't much to say that hasn't been said already. The quotes coming from the players are the same, as are the outcomes of the games lately. I guess one positive is that they've been more consistent. They're losing with greater regularity now than they had been for a while. 

Attempting to unsettle that balance against the Minnesota Wild tonight, Peter Laviolette has again shuffled his lines, only this time it's a more dramatic change:  

Hartnell-Richards-Carcillo 

Gagne-Briere-Leino 

van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Powe 

Laperriere-Betts-Asham  ...

At least, that's what they were at the morning skate, says Kevin Kurz. (That's two beers, right, KK?)  

Other than Richards' 28 goals, there aren't a lot of red lights flashing on that top scoring line. The second has some surface-level potential, and I like Giroux and JVR working together. Either way, I like just about any shakeup Lavvy can throw at this team right now. They just can't frickin score. 

Last time we saw the Wild, we were pretty excited that Nik Backstrom wasn't getting the start in net. Sadly, this only meant that we got to see another backup dismantle our scorers, with Anton "The Grill" Khudobin—their third string netminder—getting his first start annnnd a 2-1, 39-save win. No word on opposing  the starter for tonight, but even if Backstrom goes, he hasn't beaten the Flyers (0-2). 

The Flyers catch a different injury break though, with Minnesota's leading points scorer (Mikko Koivu) out of the lineup. Speaking of leading scorers being out, Jeff Carter will have a screw placed in his foot, and his timetable is not said to have changed. 

The Wild are 13th in the Western standings right now, but their point total would be good enough for 9th in the East. They're a dramatic longshot for postseason play (and that's being polite), but that doesn't mean they can't come in here and drag the Flyers down with them. We've seen the Flyers play down to their opponents, and this game has that potential, even though the opponent isn't all that bad. Word is Derek Bbooggaarrdd will play tonight, as half of the book on the Flyers lately has been to goon them up. 

The other half—and this is what I'll be watching for tonight—seems to be to collapse the defensive zone and let the Flyers putz around on the perimeter. They're getting some shots off, but there continues to be either no angle or a high percentage of blocks. Has Laviolette's system, which at one point was chasing starting goalies from the crease left and right, been solved?  More than likely, I'm oversimplifying a bit, but I don't see any answers to the drought lately.  

Bonus: The new headshot rule goes into effect tonight! Read more here

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.