Flyers-Flames: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Flames: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (29-23-6) and Flames (22-28-7) meet for the final time this season today.

It’s also the last game for both teams for a few weeks as the NHL breaks for the Olympics.

Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center (CSN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Finish strong
The Flyers are rolling right now and it’s important to head into the break with two more points, especially considering the quality of opponent they’re facing today.

Winning four of their last five, the Flyers have three straight wins over three of the best teams in the Western Conference -- the Kings, Sharks and Avalanche. They had a tough 5-3 loss to the Ducks last week, but played Anaheim extremely well.

This is the problem with the Flyers and their inconsistency. They beat teams you’d expect them to lose to, but then fall to teams you’d expect them to beat. There is no excuse for the Orange and Black to leave Wells Fargo Center today without a victory.

Calgary is a team in transition and six games under .500. However, it is riding a hot streak of its own. The Flames have won six of their last seven games, but they’re still a team the Flyers should beat.

The Flyers beat the Flames, 4-1, on New Year’s Eve. Losing to Calgary to enter the break would be a dagger in the Flyers’ hearts. It’s a critical game.

2. Loving the West
Steve Mason misses the Western Conference, because this season he’s tearing it apart.

In his last 10 games vs. Western Conference teams, Mason is 7-2-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, including a shutout. This year, he’s 10-6-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .925 save percentage against his former conference.

The 25-year-old has rebounded quite nicely in the last couple of weeks after a rough patch. He’s allowed seven goals in his last five games, including two shutouts. His confidence appears back, which is great because the Flyers’ defense still has its warts.

Mason has faced the Flames a fair amount in his career, posting pedestrian numbers. In 13 games vs. Calgary, Mason has a 5-4-3 record with a 2.97 GAA and .892 save percentage with one shutout.

In the prior meeting between these two teams this year, Mason had the night off. While the Flyers would probably like to get Ray Emery one more start before the break, it’s not a good idea to let Mason have more time off than needed.

3. Getting offensive
What’s behind the Flames’ recent stretch?

Calgary’s offense has been electric in its last seven games, scoring 25 goals -- 3.57 goals per game, 1.25 more goals per game than its season average.

The Flames' only loss during the span was a 2-0 shutout in Montreal.

Youngsters Mikael Backlund, 24, and Sean Monahan, 19, have carried the offense of late. Backlund has 10 points in his last six games, while Monahan has five points -- three goals -- during the stretch.

Monahan, the Flames’ first-round pick in 2013 (sixth overall), leads the team with 16 goals.

Jiri Hudler leads the team with 43 points. He has just three points in the Flames’ last seven games.

4. Three's Company
With Karri Ramo battling a lower-body injury, Reto Berra will get the call again in net.

Berra has started the last three games and he’s been good enough to win but not spectacular. He’s 2-1-0 in those games, but he allowed one goal in the loss; in the two wins, he allowed five goals.

The 27-year-old was in net when the Flyers scored four goals on Calgary on Dec. 31. He stopped 17 of 20 shots in the loss, as the Orange and Black also added an empty netter.

On the season, Berra has a 3.06 GAA and .896 save percentage. Given how well Mason has been playing, three goals on Berra today should be enough for a victory.

5. This and that

• Mark Streit has power-play goals in his last two games. He had two in the first 56 games.

• The Flyers have a PP goal in each of their last eight games. It's the longest active streak in NHL.

• Calgary has won four of its last five games in Philadelphia.

• Monahan’s 16 goals are the most goals by a Flames rookie since Dion Phaneuf had 20 in 2006-07.

• When Claude Giroux scores, the Flyers are 15-2-1 this season.

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

We begin our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with a look at the goaltenders. This is the first part of a four-part series.

What should have been a genuine competition in net for two players to win the prize of a long-term contract never did pan out for the Flyers this season.

Coming out of training camp, general manager Ron Hextall said goaltending was going to be the club's biggest strength with two goalies -- Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth -- essentially being 1-A and 1-B.

Instead, they both failed terribly with inconsistent performances that mirrored the skaters in front of them.

With Neuvirth already locked up for next season, all signs point to Mason leaving via free agency. That means Hextall has to find a replacement for Mason.

"We'll use the best option that's realistic for us," Hextall said recently. "Obviously, you've got salary cap, you've got term. There's a lot of factors that go into this. It's not just one. It's not just OK, let's go out and get the best goalie, whoever that might be.

"If we can get him, there's more to it than that. We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year, and the following year and after. We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. 

"I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again we'll look at our options and move when we feel is our best option at the appropriate time."

Here's our look at the goaltenders (alphabetically) this past season.

Steve Mason 
Age: Turns 29 on May 29
Record: 58 GP; 26-21-8
Stats: 2.66 GAA; .908 SV%
Cap hit: UFA who earned $4.1 million

We've got to give Mason this much credit: For a guy dealing from the bottom of the deck, he has a lot of guts. How else can you explain how he went into Hextall's office on breakup day and asked to know his status ASAP and oh, one more: I didn't like Dave Hakstol's goalie platoon idea, and if you want me back, that's a dealbreaker. This was Mason's poorest season among the four full ones in Philadelphia. He, like Neuvirth, was maddeningly inconsistent right from the get-go until the final 17 games, when he produced some impressive numbers as the club's true No. 1 -- 10-5-2 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts. In between, anything else was possible. There's a reason why the Flyers didn't re-sign him in-season like they did with Neuvirth. They feel he's going to want more term, more money and they have a slew of talent in the minors and Europe itching to get a chance to play in Philadelphia. At least one of the four goalie prospects will be NHL-ready within two years. Mason talked like a goalie going out the door down the stretch and yet, he played like one deserving of a new contract over the final month-plus. His unedited yet honest criticism of the team on a nightly basis earned him the respect of the media but did little to gather support within the room from teammates. Many felt he needed to shut his mouth. There are two kinds of goalies: those you play for and those you play in front of. The feeling was more than a few Flyers would choose the latter and those are not the type of goalies teams rally around to win Stanley Cups. It appears management realizes that could be a problem. He'll most likely go to free agency.

Michal Neuvirth 
Age: Turned 29 on March 23 
Record: 28 GP; 11-11-1
Stats: 2.82 GAA; .891 SV%
Cap hit: $2.5 million (re-signed in-season)

After a strong playoff performance in 2016 in which he showed he could be a No. 1 goalie again, Neuvirth came into the season much like Mason, knowing a good year would mean a new deal. Well, he got a two-year contract at a reduced price because of injury. A left knee strain caused him to miss 24 games this season. His start was poor -- e.g. four goals against on 16 shots vs. Chicago -- and despite a few wins, he continued to give up too many goals, showed some promise in February, but never really gained his footing in the crease. To his credit, he doesn't pout when he's not playing and he almost never criticizes the club in such a way as to offend his teammates. And teammates respect him for that. Near the end of the year, he collapsed in net from a sinus infection and dehydration and then concussed himself by passing out backward onto the ice. Hextall is convinced he'll have a bounce-back season next year, but the bottom line is that he'll never survive a full season and 30-32 games played is the most you can count on from him. Given the club chose him over Mason to re-sign, it's unlikely he'll be exposed in the expansion draft.

Anthony Stolarz
Age: Turns 24 on January 20 
Record: 7 GP; 2-1-0
Stats: 1.93 GAA; .936 SV%
Cap hit: RFA, who earned $753,333 (pro-rated)

Remember the movie There's Something About Mary? Well, if the Flyers produced such a movie, it might be titled, There's Something About Stolie. As in, there's something about this 6-foot-6 giant that the organization doesn't like. Maybe it's his mechanics, which seem awkward at times. Or maybe it's because some in the Flyers' organization feel he makes the tough saves but gives up the easy one down low, or whiffs with the glove hand. He only had seven appearances this season. Hakstol flatly refused to play him when Neuvirth was injured -- Mason got 22 starts -- and that showed a lack of confidence. That apparently extends to Hextall as well. When asked during his after-the-season press conference whether he would be comfortable with Neuvirth as his starter and Stolarz as his backup next season, Hextall didn't answer the question in affirmative fashion. With Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstorm all vying for the same opportunity Stolarz got in limited doses, the position of backup on this club remains unsolved. The door is not shut on Stolarz yet, but it's not fully open either. Stolarz suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee at season's end with the Phantoms and will miss up to four months. All meniscus tears require surgery. This is worse than an MCL sprain. The 23-year-old needs to have a great training camp to change people's minds in the organization that he's the real deal. And that's complicated by the fact his injury now sets him back. Expect him to be exposed in the expansion draft.

Up next: A look back at the defense.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).