Last Last Chance? With 10 Games Remaining, Every Two Points Counts for Flyers

Last Last Chance? With 10 Games Remaining, Every Two Points Counts for Flyers

Here we are, staring down yet another “must-win” game amid a
season that’s felt like a never-ending string of them. Although time is running
out, the truth is a loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night wouldn’t necessarily
be the final straw for the Flyers. If they do intend to sneak into the playoffs
however, they will have to climb over the gatekeepers eventually.

The Flyers may be five points back of a playoff berth with just
10 games to play, but the schedule actually allows for a lot of ground to be made
up quickly, beginning tonight in New York. The Isles are currently perched in the
eighth seed, so depriving their Atlantic Division rivals of even one little
point could go a long way in the race to the finish line.

The series between the two franchises has been incredibly
lopsided through the years. Philadelphia owns a 29-3-2 record over New York
dating back to the 2007-08 season, including a 7-0 victory back in February of
this year. That said, the Islanders picked up a 4-3 shootout win in their
last meeting less than two weeks ago. They are a dangerous opponent, going
6-3-1 over their last 10 games.

The Orange & Black recently managed to get hot
themselves, running a season-long win streak to four games before collapsing in
Winnipeg over the weekend. That may have taken some of the wind out of the
Flyers’ sails, but they’re not in bad shape all things considered, earning nine
points out of the last 12 possible.

Plus it’s open season on teams fighting for those final two
or three playoff spots. Eight of the remaining 10 contests are against clubs
within seven points of Philly: two dates with the Islanders and Senators, and
one each with the Rangers, Devils, Sabres, and Hurricanes. There is potential
for the Bullies to do some real damage down the stretch.

Of those six teams, sixth-seeded Ottawa suddenly appears to
be among the most vulnerable, currently mired in a four-game pointless streak.
Carolina has essentially fallen out of the race already, losers in 9 of 10.
The Isles, Rangers, Devils, and Sabres are huddled together in the standings,
all of them leading the Flyers, yet there is something perversely fun about the
idea that the road to the postseason travels through New York/New Jersey.

The opportunity is the Flyers’ for the taking, but can they
capitalize? Even with Saturday’s loss, one that came at the hands of yet another
opponent fighting for a spot, the effort of late instilled a glimmer of hope.
Let’s be realistic, they weren’t going to win out then, and they probably won’t
win out from here. The Flyers do have the chance to knock out several of the teams
in their path though, which is really all anybody can ask for at this point.

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Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

Steve Mason was not his sharpest Thursday night and he's the first to admit it.

"There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to," Mason said. "This is a situation the guys in front never quit. They earned the two points for sure."

Mason yielded five goals for the third time this season, but made enough saves to secure the Flyers' seventh straight win, a 6-5 victory over the Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win streak is the longest the Flyers have had since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when "Mr. Universe" Ilya Bryzgalov was their goaltender. Mason finished with 28 saves.

"The guys bailed me out," Mason said, "When your goalie is not making the saves that you need, but the guys keep battling in front, from a personal standpoint, it's huge to see."

Making his 16th start in the Flyers' last 17 games, Mason appeared to show signs of fatigue against Edmonton. He's started the last six games, winning all six.

His current six-game win streak is a career-high, and the five goals allowed Thursday is the first time he's allowed more than two goals during this current streak. 

Entering Thursday, Mason was 5-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his previous five starts, and 8-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage since Nov. 12. So Thursday is just a small blemish on Mason's impressive résumé of late.

"I didn't think he looked tired," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "This win's a little bit indicative of the type of team we have. A couple nights ago, Mason was the best player. He picked up a lot of guys around him and tonight maybe wasn't his best.

"But it was pretty good. The guys battled hard. They picked up some of the slack. That's what it takes. Every guy's not going to be at their best every night.

"You'd like them to be, and I know the guys want to be at that level, but when one piece isn't working, the other part has to pick it up."

The Flyers' offensive outburst came two days after Mason stole two points against the Florida Panthers, and nine days after the goalie stole another two points against Boston.

Twice on Thursday the Flyers faced two-goal deficits, and both times they found a way to erase them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Flyers' history they were able to win a game in which they were down two goals twice.

"Once we got it to 5-4," Mason said, "I tried to lock it down as best I could. There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to.  … Coming back in a couple of days, from a personal standpoint, I got to be more sharp."

After going falling behind 2-0, the Flyers tied it, 2-2, with three goals in 72 seconds in the second period, the quickest three-goal burst since Feb. 14, 2009, vs. the Islanders. 

Then, the Flyers fell behind 5-3 before Voracek sparked a three-goal third period with his 10th of the year at 6:31. Claude Giroux tallied his second of the game, and Michael Raffl pushed the Flyers to victory with his sixth of the season at 18:31 of the final stanza.

"It's a great feeling to come back from behind," Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov said. "You never want to be in that position, but that's the way it sometimes go. We stuck with it and came from behind and won the game. It's a great effort."

Of the five goals allowed Thursday, the first goal Mason allowed was the only one that can be pinned on the netminder. It was not a great goal to give up, on the second shot of the game, too. Afterward, he said the read was the backdoor play, but Leon Draisaitl slipped it through Mason's five-hole for his fifth goal in as many games.

"Some nights you can be better than the other nights," Provorov said. "And that's what the team's all about. We play for each other. If someone has a mistake, we all help him out and play for each other. That's why we win games."

"That's how you become a great team," Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points, said. "Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn't his night.

"We came big for him. It's how you get into the playoffs, and it's how you have success in the playoffs. It's a good thing we won the game and get rolling now."