Flyers Notes: Mason, Simmonds hot at right time

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Flyers Notes: Mason, Simmonds hot at right time

Steve Mason looked a little drained.

He had good reason. For more than half the game, he was the lone difference between the Flyers clinging to a one-goal lead and losing by several.

Just that simple.

“Games have ways of sorting themselves out,” Mason said after the Flyers' narrow 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars (see game recap).

Mason was the ultimate defensive difference, while Wayne Simmonds provided clutch offense with two goals.

“It was a tough one because we were clinging onto that one-goal lead for such a long time,” Mason said. “The guys found a way to come out and get some big goals that third period [after leading 2-1]. This is a team win.”

The Dallas Stars are big and fast, and they came at Mason all night. Jamie Benn had two goals -- his second made it 3-2 before Michael Raffl put it away for good.

“Sometimes bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t,” Mason said. “When they’re not going your way, things tend to be magnified a little bit.

“Right now the guys are working hard. You can really see it in our last three games, including this one, just on the back check. We’re not giving teams too much time. Our games against Pittsburgh and Chicago were really solid team efforts and tonight was the same.”

That’s nine starts in the last 10 games for Mason. His record is 7-2-1. He admits the night off against Chicago helped.

“Anytime you can utilize the rest you get coming down this home stretch is going to be big,” Mason said. “We’re in a good spot right now. We have to keep playing well. Every game is going to be a must-win down the road.”

Simmonds now has 23 goals, five shy of career high set with the Flyers in 2011-12.

“I think I’m playing more consistently,” Simmonds said. “My first year here I did get the 28 goals, but I think there were some lapses in the season where I’d probably go 15, 16 games. I think there was one time I went like 17 games without a goal, and I just try to make sure I play a more complete game and more consistently.”

So what’s changed?

“I don’t know,” Simmonds replied. “I think it’s just getting used to the league more and more. It’s my sixth year in the league now, and as you get older the game starts to slow down a little bit. Things, I don’t want to say it gets easier, but I guess it does get a little bit easier.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube has seen the difference in Simmonds.

“He’s grown this year as a power forward,” Berube said. “I think his game has improved on the rush. He’s become a very good rush player.

“You could see tonight, he takes the puck and shoots it off the rush and scores. To me, that’s where his game has really improved this year.”

Point streak
Claude Giroux had an assist, extending his scoring streak to five games (1-7-8). The Flyers have a record of 30-12-3 when Giroux earns at least one point. He has had at least one point in the Flyers’ last 14 wins.

Defensive scoring
Mark Streit’s first-period goal was the 30th by a Flyers defenseman this season. The last time that occurred was in 2009-10, when their blue liners had 32 goals. The Flyers got 38 goals from defensemen in the 2005-06 and 2003-04 seasons.

Blocked shots
The Flyers blocked 24 Dallas shots. That ties with two other games for second-most this season.

Goals
In the 10 games since the Olympic break, the Flyers have scored 16 goals in the first period. That’s an average of 1.6 first-period goals. Prior to the Olympic break, the Flyers had scored 38 first-period goals in 59 games for an average of 0.65.

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

The Flyers' playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.

The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.

They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let's take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.

• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we've all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don't see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier's skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night's tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.

• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday's disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.

 • In response to Tuesday's lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers' lines ahead of Thursday's game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That's a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers' playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn't he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he's a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You've got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers' goal-scoring needs.

• The Flyers' power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers' power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It's not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It's that it's giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It's more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers' power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.

• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday's games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I'll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers' goal differential is minus-27.

• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs' goal differential on the season is minus-104. That's an astounding number that's 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona's. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it's worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that's any consolation.

Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN).

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers (34-32-8) at Penguins (46-17-11)
7 p.m. on NBCSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers conclude their final four-game road trip of the season on Sunday night in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team with its playoff ticket already punched.

Let's take a closer look game at No. 75 for the Flyers.

1. Power outage
The theme remained the same for the Flyers in their 1-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday: a lifeless power play leads to little offense in a must-win game that killed any realistic, however slim, hope of making a last-second run at the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

After going 0 for 3 against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers' power play is now 3 for 43 in March, 0 for its last 14 and 2 for its last 25. On Sunday night, they face a Penguins penalty kill that is lingering near the bottom 10 of the league at 19th overall with an 80.3 percent kill rate.

"We're getting our chances and it's not going in," Shayne Gostisbehere said Saturday. "It's not like we're not getting shots, so it's a matter of sticking with it and it'll come."

In their 4-0 shutout win over the Penguins on March 15, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the man advantage and it was the last game the team found twine on the power play.

2. Mr. 100
After winning his 100th game as a Flyer on Thursday night Minnesota -- only the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 wins -- Steve Mason had Saturday afternoon off.

Without context, rolling with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday was a surprising move considering Mason has been the better goalie of the two and the team believed its season was not yet over. But it was the first game of a back-to-back against two of the East's elites.

Neuvirth appeared rusty in the opening period but settled down in Columbus, but Mason is expected back in between the pipes Sunday against the Pens, whom he shut out 11 days ago.

On Sunday, he's expected to make his 50th start of year. Mason will be the first goaltender in Flyers history to start over 50 games in four consecutive seasons. He's appeared in 53 games this season in total heading into Sunday night's tilt.

Mason is 2-3-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March and owns a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage overall this season.

3. Playoffs … playoffs?
With Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Flyers' playoff hopes are realistically dead -- not as if they weren't already. The Flyers have eight games left and are eight points out of the playoffs.

One has to believe the Flyers have to win out and acquire all 16 possible points to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs. That's not taking into account help needed elsewhere.

Let's do some math. If the Flyers were to earn all 16 points on the table, they'd finish the year with 92 points. Is that enough to get into the playoffs? Not unless the four teams ahead of them crash and burn. The Flyers are not officially eliminated, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's go with Sean Couturier, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. He had a goal and an assist with a career-high eight shots vs. the Pens 11 days ago.

Penguins: Nick Bonino has seven goals in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 12 games. Bonino has one goal in three games against the Flyers this season.

5. This and that
• The Penguins will wear their gold Stadium Series jerseys against the Flyers on Sunday.

• The Flyers have scored just 20 goals in their last 17 losses.

• This game was originally set for 12:30 p.m. but was rescheduled earlier in the season.

• Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in five contests since losing to the Flyers on March 15. The Pens are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses.