Flyers Notes: Mason, Simmonds hot at right time


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.

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' lackluster power play sets team back in home opener

Flyers' lackluster power play sets team back in home opener

Most times, a team gets five power plays in a game, it’s lights out.

The Flyers had five power plays in the second period of Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim and were being outshot!

By the time matters were settled, they had scored one, lonely power play goal in seven chances. That almost defies the odds for not being more successful. It’s also a contributing factor in the defeat.

Right now for Dave Hakstol’s club it remains either feast or famine on power play. 

The Flyers either get the puck into the zone cleanly with a setup, puck and player movement and shots or they flub entry passes, turn it over at the blue line, or whiff within the zone and it results in an easy clear.

There’s no real consistency to their power play, which is 3-for-17 through four games. A few more goals and they would have won in Phoenix (0-for-4) and against the Ducks.

“We kept turning the puck over in the neutral zone,” said Wayne Simmonds, who had the only power play marker the Flyers scored in this game.

Simmonds' goal was classic tic-tac-toe passing and movement. There simply wasn’t enough of that in this game, or in others so far, either.

Far too often, the Flyers made it too easy on Anaheim’s penalty kill units with inefficiency.

“Those guys that are out there, they did a hell of a job tonight,” Corey Perry said of the Ducks’ PK units. “They blocked shots, they cleared pucks, they did everything they were asked to do.

“When you’re killing penalties, that’s what you have to do. You have to sacrifice that body and [goalie John] Gibson came up with some big saves for us.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol didn’t see it the same way.

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” he said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was okay, the bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

Hakstol was referring to Perry’s tying goal that made it 2-2 and gave the Ducks momentum carryover into the final period.

Matt Read doesn’t play on the power play but he sees some things from the bench.

“It’s about getting that bounce or making that one extra play or simple play of getting the puck to the net,” Read said. “They’re doing a good job out there and it’s going to come. It’s still early. 

"Hopefully, you watch video and see what you can do better every time. It would be nice to get an insurance goal there, but it didn’t happen. We got to play better the rest of the game.”

More Read
His goal in the second period on a splendid, end-to-end rush, gives him four goals on the season. He’s on pace for a mere 82.

Read has a three-goal scoring streak. This was his fourth career goal streak of three games or more. His career-high there is five games, going back to the fall of 2011 when he scored six goals between Nov. 13-21.

“He has always been a hard working guy,” Hakstol said. “He’s a guy that is doing things with a lot of confidence. For me, it started with Reader back in late August. 

“He was in here working early, getting ready, getting prepared and he has carried that through everything he has done so far this year.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds is also on a three-game goal scoring streak, which is the 12th such streak of his career. His career-high is five games from March 26-April 3, 2012, during which he scored six goals … Attendance was 19,982. That’s the Flyers’ largest home crowd since January 20, 2015 when they had the same attendance figure in a 3-2 overtime victory against Pittsburgh.

Flyers' defense continues to abandon team through 1-2-1 start

Flyers' defense continues to abandon team through 1-2-1 start

It was the home opener Thursday night and his team went 1 for 7 on the man advantage with five such opportunities in the second period alone.

However, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol remembers one play more than any other in his team’s 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).

The Flyers had swung and missed on their final power play of the middle stanza, when the Ducks came pushing up ice with post-kill energy. Somehow, Anaheim came barreling down on the Flyers with a four-on-two rush seconds after the orange and black just had the benefit of an extra player.

Center Ryan Getzlaf dumped a pass back to winger Corey Perry, who had all the time in the world to wind up and blast one home thanks to 6-foot-4 Getzlaf’s screening of 6-foot defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Just like that, the game was tied when it looked like the Flyers would add cushion and cruise into the third period with a lead to protect.

“Our power play was OK,” Hakstol said. “The bigger thing for me is the goal that we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals as a team that we can’t give up.”

The rookie Provorov couldn’t find his way around the veteran Getzlaf, while defenseman Brandon Manning stayed in retreat, allowing Perry to unleash a slap shot.

“It’s the best league in the world, the best players play here,” Provorov said. “Even a little mistake can cost you, slightly out of position can cost you. I’m still learning.”

Provorov has endured his rookie lumps through the Flyers’ 1-2-1 start. A game after finishing with a minus-5 rating against the Blackhawks, the 19-year-old committed two giveaways and a cross-checking penalty for a minus-1 mark Thursday.

Nonetheless, the Flyers went from a man up to two down in a matter of seconds to relinquish the lead.

“We didn’t handle that well,” Hakstol said. “When you give up a four-on-two after you’ve had those kind of opportunities, it’s going to change the momentum of the game.”

Were the defensemen in a bad spot?

“Yes,” Hakstol said.

Poor defensive coverage cost the Flyers momentum in the second and the game in the third.

About midway through the period, Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer carried the puck behind goalie Steve Mason before adeptly finding Ryan Garbutt uncovered with a reverse pass. The Anaheim center scored easily top shelf as Flyers defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Shayne Gostisbehere were caught standing in front of the net without seeing Garbutt.

“We had a little bit of tired legs,” Hakstol said. “We lost coverage on that play. There was a switch. We didn’t lose coverage for long. We had communication, we had talked, but we lost coverage for a split second and that allowed them to make the play to the same side on the backdoor.”

Gostisbehere had trouble working his power-play magic and played big minutes with 22:58 of ice time.

“They’re a big-bodied team,” Gostisbehere said. “We just have to make our plays a little quicker.”

Even on the Ducks’ first-period marker, an outlet pass found its way behind the defense of Provorov and Gostisbehere. Over the first four games, the Flyers have allowed 16 goals, tied for the second most in the NHL.

“You’re playing against a heavy team and they put a lot of pressure on the group back there when they’re able to get pucks deep,” Hakstol said. “So, I don’t think it was particular to one or two guys. When you let them gain the zone with some speed and get in on pucks, they’re a heavy team to handle.”

Facing a heavy team or not, the Flyers know defensive execution must be cleaned up.

“I think that from everyone’s personal standpoint we can all be better,” Mason said. “When you lose three games in a row, we can’t worry about what other people are doing, you just have to focus on your own job. From a goaltender’s perspective, personally, I have to find ways to come out and get a win here.”