10 observations from a Flyers off day

10 observations from a Flyers off day
October 31, 2013, 10:45 am
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In nine starts this season, Steve Mason has a 2.25 goals against average and .928 save percentage. (USA Today Images)

Ten random observations from Wednesday, the Flyers' full day away from the ice:

1. Third-period meltdowns. My feeling is that it’s become a mental choke collar on the Flyers. Unless they are feeling good about themselves when that period begins –- which is seldom the case -- they seem to play overly cautious, almost fearful of making a mistake that becomes fatal. That happened twice in the final period against Anaheim and resulted in two goals against, including the game-winner.
2. Sean Couturier had his fourth consecutive game in which he won better than 50 percent of his faceoffs. His 54.2 percent is almost 11 points higher than last season. He is 27th overall among faceoff-percentage leaders. His ice time under coach Craig Berube is up by at least two minutes a night. He has increased responsibility, too. He still draws tough defensive assignments against the top line every game. He averaged 14:24 ice time last season and is at 17 minutes this season.
3. It's been 11 games now for Claude Giroux without a goal. You could have won big in Vegas if you had bet that would have happened. The good news is that he’s not down on himself, and if there’s a concentration issue, you wouldn’t know it because he is currently 11th overall in the NHL in total faceoff draws taken. He’s at 50.4 percent a game.
4. Ray Emery has sat five consecutive games. Berube is caught between a rock and a hard place. The Flyers need points. They’re buried in the NHL standings. Steve Mason is “The Man” right now, and frankly, Berube can’t afford to use Emery except in back-to-back situations, which happens with weekend against Washington and New Jersey.
5. Andrej Meszaros finally got into a game after being benched for five. He drew a lukewarm postgame response from Berube, who felt his game tailed off in the latter stages of the game when Anaheim was taking it to the Flyers. The Flyers showcased Meszaros in the preseason for a trade, but it didn’t happen. So if Meszaros sits, it’s not going to hinder his chances all that more than if he plays.
6. Lecavalier had a nice power play goal against Anaheim, but was stripped of a puck for one third-period goal, and tried to make a big hit along the boards that created an open lane on what would become the winning goal. That aside, there is nothing comforting right now about the fact that the Flyers' leading scorer is 33 years old when there is so much young offensive talent on this team. Vinny should complement scoring –- not lead in it.
7. Luke Schenn is staying out on the ice every day in practice for extra skating work, even at morning skates on game day. “I need to work on my footwork,” he said. He insists this is his idea, not the coaches'. He needs to improve his footwork to help him recover in dicey situations around the net where he is a second too late or slow. Right now the pendulum has swung clearly back to JVR on that trade of two years ago.
8. More than a few people impressed upon Jakub Voracek that he needed to start putting some pucks at the net. He was averaging one shot through the first eight games, but has picked it up a bit with 10 shots over his last four games. Berube expects him to average three shots a game. He’s right, too.
9. Will someone please turn down the volume on Lou Nolan’s mic? In fact, how about turning down the speaker volume all around at the Wells Fargo Center? As bad as the Islanders’ building is, you don’t need a hearing aid after sitting in your seat several years in a row like you do in Philadelphia.
10. The Flyers' wives are honoring the 1973-74 and '74-75 Stanley Cup champion teams this season at their annual Carnival. So is the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association, because this is the 40th Anniversary of the first Cup team. We don’t know what the Flyers themselves plan, but this is dicey. Given last season and the disappointment already this season, fans have never been angrier or more vocal. You can see their dissatisfaction by the number of empty seats now at games. The vast majority of their current fan base wasn’t around for the Cup years and deeply resents being reminded of it every year. Bob Clarke said a few years ago it was time to move on. He’s right. If the club is going to do this, it has to figure how to do it without further alienating their current fans who wonder only one thing: When are we going to win the next Cup?

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