Struggling Flyers get back to basics
Steve Mason has a 2.37 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and a 1-5 record in six games this year. (USA Today Images)
The only bright spot on the Flyers right now is goaltender Steve Mason.
In fact, this is the first time in quite a while you could point to the Flyers and make the statement that while everything else might be up for grabs, there is no issue in goal.
Mason has a 2.37 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He’s given the Flyers a chance in every game he’s played and deserves better than a 1-5 record.
“He’s been everything to us this year,” Wayne Simmonds said. “He’s standing on his head every single game, keeping us in the game, making every single save he can make and it sucks for him because we’re not supporting him on the other end.”
Six times the Flyers have gone into the third period trailing by a goal. That means the game was right there for the taking.
In four of those games, Mason has been the goaltender. In each case, the Flyers lost and another solid effort was wasted.
Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh was yet another example.
Mason is no stranger to poor records, though he never expected this kind of thing in Philadelphia.
“We went a few years in Columbus with a lot of down times,” he said. “A lot of losing went on. When the losses pile up early in the season, it’s easy to let that affect you. But the group of guys we have here, I’m confident we’ll find a solution sooner rather than later.”
Mason simply has no goal support, especially in third periods when the Flyers have been tattooed, 12-2, in scoring.
“When you’re only scoring one goal a game, it is tough to win hockey games and it puts pressure on us when we are in a defensive zone,” Mason said.
“We are going to have to start creating offensive chances in order to begin digging ourselves out of this hole that we’re in.”
He continued to say he feels “confident” in the net. He should. He looks the part.
“This is how I finished off last season, being comfortable here,” Mason said. “That’s just my goal -- maintain consistency. That’s the biggest thing for any goaltender. Be that consistent, solid presence at the back end. That is what I am focused on right now.”
The players feel bad for him.
“Steve has been sharp this season,” Max Talbot said. “He gives us a chance to win every night. If you take away empty-net goals, I mean, 90 percent of the games are one-goal games, so he has been keeping us in the game every night.
“He’s been outstanding. I think once we start putting the puck in the back of the net, it will heighten our chances.”
Mason deserved a better fate against the Penguins for keeping the Flyers in the game 2-1 going into the third period when the Flyers could have been blown out 5-0 in the second.
“It’s obviously tough being a goalie in the net when you are only getting one or two goals a night,” Brayden Schenn said.
“He is probably a little bit frustrated with that because he is playing well and he is making key saves at key times for us and you just like to help him out one night and give him some goal support and we haven’t done that yet.”
The Flyers had hope, but they blew some very good scoring chances in the third period, including a couple open nets.
“Our first two periods weren’t great,” Mason said. “Our second in particular wasn’t a good period in hockey. We’re not going to win games playing like that. In the third period, that’s the way we need to play.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on some chances and before you knew it, the game’s over.”