Steve Mason will start Game 4 but there was never a goalie controversy anyway

Steve Mason will start Game 4 but there was never a goalie controversy anyway

After what transpired in Game 3 this past Tuesday night, you could see this one coming from a mile away.

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube confirmed today that Steve Mason will be back between the pipes and start Game 4 against the New York Rangers tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Center.

It seems like Mason is fully healthy from that mysterious upper-body injury he suffered in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the last weekend of the regular season.

And while backup Ray Emery filled in admirably in Games 1 and 2 and was arguably the Flyers’ best player in those two games leading some to think there was some sort of controversy brewing, Mason is and was always the No. 1 goalie when fully healthy.

And for good reason.

Mason earned the spot with the way he played this season. He finished with a 33-18-7 record, .914 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average in 61 regular-season appearances while separating himself from Emery. Granted Emery made just 28 appearances in the regular season, but you get the point.

No slight toward Emery as he’s done exactly what’s been asked of him in the backup role this season, but Mason is and always has been the better option, no questions asked.

And that bodes even more true in this series against the Rangers for a couple of reasons.

First, Mason has superior lateral movement.

Look at most of the goals the Rangers have scored so far in the series. Most of the goals have come as a result of Emery being forced to move post-to-post and that isn’t his strong point these days, especially after that near career-ending hip surgery he underwent a few years ago during his first stint as a Flyer.

With all the puck possession the Rangers have had in this series, it has allowed their playmakers to make slick passes and get Emery moving as Flyers defenders have been on their heels.

Mason is much better going post-to-post so he’ll have better opportunities to shut down those kinds of Rangers chances. That’s huge, especially if the Rangers continue to control the puck as much as they have in the series. We haven’t seen any reason so far to think they won’t.

Second, Mason is a much better at handling the puck than Emery is. In fact, Mason is one of the better puck-handling goaltenders in the entire league.

That’s a huge weapon because of how effective the Rangers have forechecked so far in the series. They’ve won the majority of the board battles after dump-ins and chip-ins and those won battles have led to a ton of scoring chances.

Mason has the ability to come out of his net and deftly play the puck to a teammate or out of the zone before the Rangers can start their forecheck and help start the Flyers down the other end of the ice.

Think along the lines of two years ago when the Flyers played the New Jersey Devils in the second round.

Then Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette’s aggressive forechecking system was thwarted before it began because of the way Devils goalie Marty Brodeur played the puck. The Flyers were never able to figure out a real way around that.

Now Mason is not Brodeur when it comes to playing the puck. No goalie is. But that puck-handling presence could toss a major wrench into the way the Rangers attack.

In case you tuned out, Emery was pulled in third period of Game 3 and replaced by Mason, who made three saves in 7:15 of ice time.

But cut Emery some slack. He obviously wasn’t great in Game 3 and most of the goals he let in were softies. Derek Stepan and Dan Carcillo’s goals had no business going in. Dan Girardi’s goal was a rocket from the blue line but Emery still had a shot at it. Only Marty St. Louis’ deflection from the high slot was the one Emery had no shot at.

But Emery was far from the only reason the Flyers lost Game 3. They barely had any sort of puck possession or real, sustained offensive-zone time. They had 31 shots on net but how many times was Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist truly tested?

The Flyers once again couldn’t stay out of the penalty box as they took five penalties and if it wasn’t for two really dumb penalties by Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot that negated Rangers power plays, the first period could have been a whole lot worse.

The Flyers’ power play was also a mess as it went 0-for-5 and generated just three total shots on goal. They also struggled mightily getting shots through to Lundqvist as the Rangers blocked 28 shots but it seemed like they blocked a million of them.

The good news is that there are two days off between Games 3 and 4. That’s two days of adjustments for the Flyers to make before the puck is dropped tomorrow night.

Actually not falling behind by two goals in the first period and jumping out to a lead would be a nice adjustment to start with.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”