Steve Mason Makes a Statement in First Win with Flyers

Steve Mason Makes a Statement in First Win with Flyers

Tempting as it might be to peek at the standings following
their 4-2 win over Rangers on Tuesday, the reality is the Flyers still have a
lot of ground to make up and precious little time left to do it. Turns out knocking
off the eighth seed with a week and a half to go will only get you so far.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any positives to take away
from the end result.

New York had come out on top in 10 of the previous 11
meetings, so that needed to be broken up of course. If nothing else the Flyers may
have helped cost the Rags their playoff spot, but that much remains to be seen.

The continued growth of several young players is a good sign
for the future as well. Phantoms call-ups Erik Gustafsson (goals in consecutive
games), Oliver Lauridsen (career-high 19:59 of ice time), and Brandon Manning
(first NHL point) all stepped up for a skeleton-crew defense, while Sean
Couturier’s 22 minutes (most among Flyers forwards) was some of the best all-around
hockey the sophomore has played all season.

Then there is Steve Mason. Already doing his very best to
create a goalie controversy – first with his mere existence, then later by
proclaiming he intends to overtake Ilya Bryzgalov on the depth chart –
Mason hasn’t done anything between the pipes to silence the gossip.

Mason’s 38 saves were a season-high for a Flyers netminder,
eight of those coming against the New York power play, as he was finally able to notch his first win in Orange & Black. You might even go so far as to say he
stole one in his Wells Fargo Center debut, coming up with a number of highlight-reel
stops in what was a tight contest throughout.

In four appearances for the Flyers, Mason is posting a .941
save percentage and 1.82 goals against average. As solid as he’s looked though,
none of the previous three outings announced his arrival as loudly or with as
much force as this.

Message received.

To be fair, Bryzgalov has responded to the possibility of a
competition. In his two games since Mason received his first start, Bryz picked up
the W in Montreal on Monday, and only surrendered a pair of breakaway goals in
a 2-1 loss to Ottawa over the weekend – hardly a final that could be blamed on the goaltender.

Actually, it’s almost funny. As the Flyers’ blue-line depth
becomes more and more depleted due to injury – Bruno Gervais was the latest lost
for the season, while Kent Huskins is among the wounded with a concussion as well
– defensive breakdowns and crippling turnovers are suddenly, rather noticeably reduced.

Not to take anything away from Mason, but I’m not sure how many times we’ve
seen him truly hung out to dry yet.

Regardless, we can’t discount what Mason has done so far,
either. It’s a small sample size, and thus it doesn’t necessarily equate to a
sign of things to come for the 24 year old. The idea that the Flyers will be in
a position to completely evaluate their backup goaltender after having him in house for
three weeks is crazy.

This much can probably be said safely however: Bryzgalov, or
whoever the other goalie happens to be next season, will have a legit
competition on their hands if Mason continues to have anything to say about it.
So far it’s looking like he just might.

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La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

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La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

RICHMOND, Va. -- Justin Tillman had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead five VCU players in double figures in a 90-52 victory over La Salle on Sunday.

VCU held La Salle to 15 made field goals and forced 16 turnovers.

VCU went on a 19-0 first-half run -- with 11 points from JeQuan Lewis -- for a 38-14 lead and the Rams led 42-16 at halftime after shooting 51.5 percent. Lewis made 5 of 6 shots and had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

Samir Doughty added 15 points for VCU (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic 10). Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Burgess scored 10. Tillman was 7 of 10 from the field as the Rams shot 56.5 percent.

Jordan Price and Saul Phiri each scored 11 points for La Salle (11-6, 5-2) and Pookie Powell added 10. It was a season-high for the freshman Phiri but the Explorers were just 15-of-53 shooting (28.3 percent).

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

Well, if anyone hoped the Sixers' performance at game's end against Portland on Friday night -- with Joel Embiid riding the bench, ruled out for the game's remainder with a left knee contusion -- would carry over to an entirely Embiid-less game again Saturdaynight... I guess you're not alone, 'coz I sorta did. Perhaps it shouldn't have been particularly surprising to see that the Sixers were still the same team last night in Atlanta they were the previous Saturday against the Wizards: good enough to hang against an above-average East team, but not nearly good enough to actually win. 

At least they kept this one closer longer. Normally, against the Hawks, once the single-digit lead in the first half balloons into the double-digit lead in the third quarter, it never deflates back, but this time we cut it down to seven a couple times -- just never hitting that one big shot that would've really made things interesting, ultimately losing 110-93. It doesn't help that Nik Stauskas is in the midst of one of his most refrigerated runs as a Sixer, going just 7-30 (3-16 from deep) over Philly's last five games, or that Dario Saric is similarly bricking shots near and wide, a remarkable 2 for 22 over his last couple contests. 

This, sadly, is a primary reason why the Sixers' playoff hopes, while fun to dream about, are still unlikely to be more than a flicker. Over the next few weeks, the Sixers have a trio of back-to-backs coming up, with the back-end games coming against Milwaukee, Sacramento and San Antonio -- none of which Philly, 2-12 without their star center, are probable to win sans JoJo. Even if they can take care of business with Embiid on the court, it'll be tough to make up the ground that the Sons of Sam need to while they have to drop one every three or four games as Joel sits. 

That's fine, though. This season's been super-fun, but we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves: Let's ensure Embiid's health, maybe get Ben Simmons out there too, secure a nice draft pick or two (though the plummeting Kings could be of significant help with that themselves), and focus on making next year even more of a thing. The future remains impossibly bright, even if the present is going to have to be borderline-unwatchable once or twice a week.