2013-14 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

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2013-14 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

First of three parts, reviewing the Flyers' roster from 2013-14.

Goaltending just might have been the Flyers' greatest overall strength this past season.

It’s what saved them early. It’s what made them competitive down the stretch. It’s what gave them a chance in the playoffs.

The only question the Flyers have about this position going into the summer is whether they will re-sign backup Ray Emery.

If it means anything, Emery received strong vocal support from Steve Mason on breakup day.

“I hope he’s back,” Mason said. “First and foremost, he’s a great person. I think he was a huge part of us coming back this year.

“Myself, having a goaltender partner like Ray, who is extremely supportive, I learned a lot from him. The way he approaches the game -- he’s been through a lot in his career, not just in hockey but life in general. To have an older guy like that as your partner, I’d like to have him back.”

General manager Paul Holmgren has had discussions with Emery’s agent and said he would also like a full medical report before making a decision on a new contract.

There are about a half-dozen UFA goalies in the Flyers' price range if they can’t re-sign Emery.

Ray Emery
Age: Turns 32 in September
Record: 9-12-2
Stats: 1328:25 MIN; 2.96 GAA; .903 SV%
Status: Unrestricted free agent

A very different Emery was signed to a one-year, $1.65 million contract last summer. Different in how he presented himself from several years ago when the Flyers first gave him a try. A more humble, more professional, more mature goalie. Emery’s battle to overcome a career-threatening right hip injury had a lasting impact on him. It changed his outlook on life. Winning the Stanley Cup in Chicago allowed him to validate his career. He gave the Flyers exactly what they required: a reliable, competent, experienced backup. Emery no longer can go post to post -- his only flaw -- like he used to, but he was invaluable in many ways as the backup to Mason. For whatever reason, teammates didn’t give him the goal support he deserved in far too many games this season. Had they, his record would have been much better. He was very composed during key road games down the stretch, which is why coach Craig Berube used him. Holmgren said Emery never had any hip issues this season. Emery deserves to be re-signed, but it’s going to be tied to available cap dollars.

Steve Mason
Age: Turns 26 this month
Record: 33-18-7
Stats: 
3485:36 MIN; 2.50 GAA; .917 SV%
Cap hit: $4.1 million

After several decades of trying to find a young goalie to give the Flyers some longevity in net a la Ron Hextall, it appears the Flyers have finally found their man. Much like Jakub Voracek, Mason came here from Columbus as a project player and needed to give the Flyers a reason to believe. People were excited about the snippet he showed last spring in just seven games. Mason proved those outings were no fluke. He appears to be the real deal and was largely responsible for giving teammates hope early in the season when the club was a mess and trying to claw its way back into the playoff picture when the entire roster couldn’t score goals. Mason outplayed Henrik Lundqvist in the postseason and gave the Flyers every chance to win the series, despite playing through a concussion, which was not a wise decision. He was outstanding at times and came up big in big games. He and Emery found a way to co-exist without jealousy. They were a very good tandem in net. Mason’s new three-year, $12.3 million contract kicks in this coming season. He earned a bargain $1.5 million for 2013-14. 

Next: A look back on the defense.

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

TORONTO — First semester of college can often be a challenge for many students, but for Tanner Laczynski, the experience was a sweet one — literally. 

Part of Laczynski’s course load at Ohio State University was “Chocolate Science.” According to the course website, students receive an “introduction to science and business of chocolate. Students develop and market a chocolate product as part of a virtual company. Students taste commercial products.” 

Laczynski, who plans to declare his major in business in his second semester, got a lesson in chocolates from around the world during the course. 

“Chocolate Science wasn't bad,” Laczynski said with a laugh a few weeks ago. “All I did was eat chocolate and write a paper about it. There's lots of different chocolate, and they all taste good.” 

Growing up 43 miles outside of Chicago in Shorewood, Illinois, Laczynski wasn’t a big football fan, saying there wasn’t much to cheer for with respect to the Bears, but since relocating to the Buckeye State, he’s taken up interest in the local team. 

“That's a big part of it,” Laczynski said of attending OSU. “I've been to two games, they haven't been the strongest opponents so kind of blowouts.” 

Laczynski was in the middle of a nap when the Flyers used their sixth-round pick to select him on the second day of the 2016 NHL draft. He was admittedly startled to be woken up by his parents, Ken and Dawn, along with sister Payton and brother Hayden.

“I'd just gotten back home from coaching some kids, it was early in the morning, came back, took a nap and my parents were all excited,” Laczynski said. “I was still tired from my nap, but woke up pretty quick. 

“They just kind of attacked me so I was kind of like, 'What's going on?' at first. That was unbelievable and it's a moment I won't forget."

After a quick phone call from his agent, Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor and John Riley, in charge of player development in Philly, were on the phone to welcome Laczynski to the club. 

This season, the 19-year-old had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games prior to leaving to join Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  

The under-20 tournament is the third time Laczynski has represented the U.S. internationally. He also wore Team USA colors for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the under-19 World Junior A Challenge.

Through the first six games at the world juniors, Laczynski tallied one goal and an assist. He missed the semifinals against Russia because of an illness, but was in the lineup as the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout to win gold.

Despite being just three months into his first year at OSU, the Flyers remain in constant communication with their prospect. 

“I talk to John Riley quite a bit, he's always in contact with me sending me game film and sending me clips of NHL highlights and stuff like that,” Laczynski said. “We keep in touch, it's a relationship and it's nice to keep in touch with him.”

During his freshman season, skating has been an area of focus for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward.

“I think my big thing is my first couple steps, just my quickness, stopping, getting back on it. I think that's my biggest thing,” he said. “Once I get that down, I feel like I have the speed, but just build an extra step, just improve on that, I think that'll be a tremendous help to my game.” 

Laczynski, who spent three seasons in the USHL prior to committing to the Buckeyes, said he tries to model his game after one-time Flyer Jaromir Jagr. 

“He's kind of the guy that I watched a lot just because of his puck protection and everything,” Laczynski said. “I try to kind of use my body to protect the puck down low and create some chances in the offensive zone. 

“He's got a really good stick — I try to watch that and have an active stick in the defensive zone and offensive zone, as well.” 

In his conversations with Riley and Pryor, the expectations for Laczynski are clear.

“Their goal for me is just to consistently play nine out of 10 nights instead of that seven out of 10 nights and get my game elevated a little bit more, play more consistently,” Laczynski said.

“I think that's the biggest thing.”

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators over the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators, who won their fourth straight at Scottrade Center for the first time in team history. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton made 18 saves.

Stone's third goal in four games at the 2:35 mark of the third period was the winner. Exactly a minute after Steen tied it, Stone stole Jaden Schwartz's pass to score his 14th goal of the season, giving the Senators a 4-3 lead.

With the win, Ottawa is currently in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, leapfrogging the Flyers, who are idle this week (see full recap).

Stars hold on for 7-6 win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars gave up an early goal for the third straight game. However, this time they quickly bounced back, took two big leads and held on for a win.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves had a goal and two assists each and the Stars got a wild 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Dallas fell behind just 27 seconds in as Derek Stepan scored on the Rangers' first shot. On Monday, the Stars gave up a goal 19 seconds into a 4-1 loss at Buffalo, and Minnesota scored 1:19 into a 5-4 win at Dallas on Saturday night.

In this one, the Stars rallied and led 4-1 and 7-3 before pulling out their third win in nine games (3-5-1) (see full recap).

Dubinsky scores twice as Jackets beat 'Canes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 9 at Detroit, a 17-game stretch during which he had chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The drought ended Tuesday night, maybe helping Columbus end a team-wide lull in the process.

Dubinsky scored in the second and third periods, Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist and the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

The Blue Jackets got their third win in seven games since ending a 16-game winning streak and pulled even with Washington atop the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

"We wanted to reset for sure," Dubinsky said. "We haven't played that well, obviously, in the last six or so games. We wanted to get back to the way we play,” (see full recap).

Matthews caps 3-goal burst, Leafs top Sabres
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin each scored in a nine-minute span in the second period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in 13 games.

Toronto came back after trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes, getting its first victory this season when behind after one period (1-8-1).

It wasn't all rosy for the Leafs, though. Top defenseman Morgan Rielly left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for Toronto, and James van Riemsdyk also scored.

Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and William Carrier each scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson allowed four goals combined on 32 shots (see full recap).