Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

January 18, 2014, 10:00 am
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Losers of two straight at home and three out of their last four games, the Flyers (24-19-5) welcome the Islanders (19-23-7) to the Wells Fargo Center tonight.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (TCN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Savin’ Mase
It’s easy to point fingers at the goaltender when a team allows a lot of goals over a short period of time as the Flyers have recently. In their last four games (1-2-1), the Flyers have surrendered 17 goals.

Steve Mason has allowed 11 goals in his last three starts and 28 in his last 10. While he has struggled to keep the puck out of the net, it’s not completely Mason’s fault. The Flyers’ defense has missed assignments, turned the puck over and left its goalies out to dry.

A perfect example would be the Flyers’ 4-1 loss at Madison Square Garden last Sunday in Ray Emery’s last start. The Rangers had a three-goal first period, including two goals in the first 2:42.

Emery wasn’t his sharpest, but it certainly wasn’t all his fault. At least two of those four goals were pinned on defensemen missing assignments, turnovers and lackadaisical play. Point is, not many goalies would stop those pucks.

Even with the struggles to limit goals allowed, Mason is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts. In games he’s given up three goals or more, he's made plenty of game-saving stops as he has all season long.

Confidence is a major factor in how well a goalie plays. If the Flyers continue to play poor team defense in front of Mason, it won’t be hard for him to lose his confidence.

And if that happens, the Flyers are in trouble. 

2. Andrej the giant
Andrej Meszaros has had a couple of rough seasons.

Injuries have plagued the 28-year-old the last few years, but he's just finally starting to look like the player who won the Barry Ashbee Trophy in his first year as a Flyer.

Meszaros has seven points in his last five games, including a goal and an assist in the Flyers' 4-3 shootout loss Thursday to Nashville.

He's still making mistakes in his own zone with turnovers and coverages, but he's making more of an impact offensively, which makes up for his defensive deficiencies.

It's the same deal as Mark Streit: Do what you're supposed to do -- move the puck, provide offense -- and the team can live with the mistakes.

And Thursday's game was the best Meszaros has looked in a long time. Can he keep it up tonight?

3. Tavares time
Is there a hotter player in the NHL right now than John Tavares?

Tavares has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games. In three of those he tallied at least three points and four have been multi-point affairs. The Isles are 9-2-0 during the stretch.

And his linemates Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo are benefiting from Tavares to boot. Vanek has 14 points in his last 10 games and Okposo has 17 in his last 14.

In two games against the Flyers this season, the Islanders’ captain has a goal and an assist. Tavares has eight goals and seven assists in 18 career games against the Orange and Black. He has four goals and two assists in his last five games against the Flyers.

Tavares’ 57 points this year is second behind Sidney Crosby’s 68, and he has more points than some of the league’s elite scorers: Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and Corey Perry, to name a few.

It’s time to start recognizing the 23-year-old as one of the top five players in the NHL.

4. Settling in strong
One of the biggest reasons the Islanders have fought themselves back into the playoff picture (only seven points out of a playoff spot) has been the play of Kevin Poulin.

Poulin has been strong in net for the Isles since Evgeni Nabokov went out with injury. The 23-year-old netminder is 5-1-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average in his last six games.

However, in two games against the Flyers this season, Poulin has given up seven goals on 47 shots against. On the year, he’s 10-13-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.

Goaltending has been the Islanders’ biggest wart all season. They’re 28th in the league with a team .896 save percentage. If Poulin can give them solid goaltending the rest of the way, the playoffs aren’t that far out of the picture in a weak Eastern Conference.

5. This and that
• The Islanders have only three wins (one regulation) in their last 19 trips to Philly.

• Since the 2007-08 season, the Flyers are 32-4-2 vs. the Islanders.

• Three of Matt Read’s 10 goals this season have come against the Islanders.

• The Islanders have won eight of their last nine road games. They lost 13 of their first 17 road games.

• The Islanders have lost 30 total games to Metro opponents this year.

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