Flyers-Coyotes: 5 things you need to know

flyers-coyotes-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Coyotes: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers may have gotten their first win of the 2013-14 season out of the way on Tuesday, but the club is still searching for goals in the early going.

Headed into Friday’s matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes (2-2-0), the Flyers (1-3-0) have netted just five goals in four games.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m. on CSN, here are five things you need to know for Flyers-Coyotes:

1) Get “G” going
Claude Giroux, who has led the Flyers in scoring the past three seasons, has struggled to find his offensive game so far in this campaign. He has fired 10 shots on net, but has zero points in the team’s first four games.

Giroux on Wednesday said his hand, which required surgery in August to repair severed tendons from a freak golfing accident, isn’t bothering him but his confidence is (see story).

“The confidence is not there,” Giroux said. “I don’t think it’s the hand -- the confidence is just not there. I will be fine. A few bad games, you always have a stretch like that during the season. Going day by day. We have a new system today and guys did a good job working it. It’s an ugly win, but we’ll take it.”

Although Giroux netted two markers in the Flyers’ first two games last year, the 25-year-old didn’t get off to the best start. He had just two assists -- both in a 7-1 rout of the Florida Panthers on Jan. 26 -- in the club’s next six games.

Giroux isn’t the only forward struggling to find the back of the net, but if the Flyers want to be successful they’re going to need their captain -- and main offensive weapon -- to find his confidence soon.

2) Schenn-sational
Is 22-year-old Brayden Schenn finally poised for a breakout season?

It sure looks like it through the first four games. Schenn has registered 11 hits, seven shots and three points and has shown some chemistry with first-year Flyer Vinny Lecavalier on the Flyers’ second line.

The young forward hasn’t quite lived up to his much-talked about potential since being acquired by the Flyers as part of the Mike Richards trade in 2011. In his first two seasons in orange and black, Schenn scored 20 goals and assisted 26 more in 110 games.

Schenn’s contract expires after this season. In the preseason, he said he wasn’t worried about his contract situation and was more focused on finding “consistency.”

The season is still young, but don’t be surprised if you see a lot more from No. 10 this year.

3) Between the pipes
Steve Mason has the hot hand in net as the Flyers prepare for Phoenix. Granted, Mason has started three of the Flyers’ first four games, but the netminder has put up impressive numbers (.936 save percentage, 2.02 goals-against average) and was the main reason why the Flyers came away with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

New head coach Craig Berube hasn’t named a No. 1 goaltender and isn’t expected to any time soon. He reiterated earlier this week that the goaltending situation will “work itself out.”

The Flyers enter their second back-to-back situation this season with the Coyotes in town Friday and a matchup with the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday. It’s likely Mason and Ray Emery will split those games.

4) Catching up with the Coyotes
Thanks to last year’s lockout-shortened season, in which teams played only within their conference, the Flyers have not played the Coyotes since Dec. 3, 2011. The orange and black won that game, 4-2.

The last time the Coyotes traveled to Philadelphia was Nov. 17, 2011. The Flyers handed Phoenix a 2-1 loss at Wells Fargo Center on that night.

The Coyotes went 21-18-9 and finished 10th in the Western Conference last year, failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

5) This and that
• In 2011-12, Matt Read collected two goals and two assists in two games against Phoenix. Giroux and Scott Hartnell added a tally and a helper each in the season series.

• Coyotes captain Shane Doan has had plenty of success in his NHL career, but not against the Flyers. In 21 regular-season games against the orange and black, Doan has just four goals and is a minus-9.

• Zac Rinaldo is averaging less than 10 minutes per game, but has registered 24 hits in the Flyers’ first four games.

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we continue our weekly check-in on a dominant goalie prospect and a pair of AHL players fighting for the next call-up and much more. Let’s dig in.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
It appears the Flyers have struck gold with a legitimate goalie prospect, one of a few in the system, in Hart. The 18-year-old is dominating the Western Hockey League. Last Monday, Hart was named the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the second consecutive week. More good news for Hart came Tuesday, when he was named to Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Hart also saw his shutout streak reach an Everett record 193 minutes and 48 seconds. He pitched a 20-save shutout Wednesday in the Silvertips’ 5-0 win over Kootenay. That was his second straight shutout, and his third in his previous four games. He saw his shutout streak snapped at 6:47 in the first period Friday against Medicine Hat, a game in which he stopped 23 of 26 shots in a 4-3 Silvertips’ win.

Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
More points for Lindblom last week, as he now is second in the SHL with 24 points. The winger had a two-assist game in Brynäs IF’s 3-2 defeat to Skelleftea on Thursday, then a goal in Brynäs’ 2-0 win over Växjö. The 20-year-old has developed into force as a kid playing among men. He’s been a mainstay of the Future Flyers Report this year, and it’ll be interesting if he comes overseas for a tryout again with the Phantoms once the SHL season ends.

Jordan Weal, C, 5-10/179, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
There is not much to be disappointed with Weal this season. He came into Flyers’ training camp and nearly wrangled a roster spot, and then responded by going down to the Phantoms and torching the AHL. His wrath continued again last week, and he’s currently on a four-game point streak. Weal has seven points in his last four games, and nine points in his last six games. Overall, Weal leads the Phantoms with 15 assists and 24 points — which has him tied for second in the AHL. He’s third on the team with nine goals. Weal’s production offers general manager Ron Hextall some scoring depth in the American League, which should allow some comfort if an injury falls to one of the Flyers’ skilled forwards. Weal would be the first call-up from Lehigh Valley.

Taylor Leier, LW, 5-10/176, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Leier has heated up over the past few weeks, and last week he turned in another impressive string of games for Lehigh Valley. Leier displayed unselfishness last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over Toronto, dishing a pass to Colin McDonald for an empty-net goal instead of going for the goal himself. He picked up another apple on a McDonald goal Saturday in the Phantoms’ 4-3 overtime win over Hershey. To cap off the week, Leier recorded a goal and an assist for Lehigh Valley in its 3-2 win over Bridgeport. He’s now two points shy of a point-per-game pace with 20 in 22 games, and sits behind Weal for the team lead. Could be an injury call-up at some point this season.

Quick hits
• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski turned in a four-point night for the Buckeyes Saturday vs. Minnesota, scoring one goal and three assists. He now has 22 points in 15 games.

Wade Allison registered his seventh collegiate goal and scored in a shootout Saturday for Western Michigan in a 5-5 tie to St. Cloud State. He has 10 points in 14 games in his freshman campaign.

• Bowling Green’s Mark Friedman picked up another assist Saturday against Lake Superior. Friedman has nine assists and 13 points in 17 games this season.

Merrick Madsen started two more games for Harvard last week. Madsen stopped 44 of 47 shots in two Crimson wins. He’s goaltended every game for Harvard this season.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom pitched a 22-save shutout against Växjö on Saturday, his first start since Nov. 22.

Sam Morin tallied his second goal of the season last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies. His D-partner, Travis Sanheim, had an assist last week.

• A good week for Robert Hagg, who picked up his first goal of the season Friday against Hershey and then an assist Sunday against Bridgeport.

Alex Lyon started three of the Phantoms’ four games last week, going 2-0 and allowing seven goals on 78 shots. He let up four in his only loss last week.

• After returning from a concussion two weeks ago, Pascal Laberge missed both of Victoriaville’s games last week with concussion symptoms.

• Rouyn-Noranda’s Philippe Myers had a goal and two assists in two games last week for the Huskies. Myers will join Hart on Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Connor Bunnaman scored a hat trick in Kitchener’s 5-4 overtime win over Ottawa on Saturday night. He now has 15 goals in 25 games.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri words had a goal and an assist in two games last week.

Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal and an assist in Calgary’s 7-5 loss to Moose Jaw on Saturday night.