Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

usastevemason.jpg

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers had two Christmas wishes heading into Monday: Being back in third place of the Metropolitan Division, and more importantly, back in a playoff spot.

They got those gifts with a highly-energized 4-1 win over the Wild and a Blackhawks win over the Devils Monday night.

The victory was also the Flyers' ninth straight at home, the team's longest such streak since October of 2005.

The best thing about this game was the Flyers kept pressing the attack to the very end instead of sitting back and coasting or going into lockdown mode.

The Flyers' top line of Claude Giroux centering Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek continued to pile up points.

They have been very hot lately and two of them are on point streaks (see "Streaking" portion of Instant Replay).

Through two periods, they had a goal and four points as the Flyers led 3-1.

In the six games since head coach Craig Berube reformed the No. 1 line, it has 28 points -- 10 goals, 18 assists.

Giroux leads the group with 12 points (five goals), followed by Voracek (four goals). Raffl has five points (one goal).

Injuries
The Wild’s Zach Parise -- 15 goals, 27 points -- was a late scratch with a foot injury. Flyers goalie Steve Mason took some contact early in the second period and was down on the ice and slow to get up. He spent a good minute stretching out but seemed fine after.

Penalties
The Flyers continue to take too many of them and got burned in the first period killing them. Wayne Simmonds even picked up a roughing call at 20 minutes, giving the Flyers three penalties that period. The Flyers finished with five penalties in the game. That is one thing that will irk Berube going into the break, no doubt about it.

Milestone
Scott Hartnell’s assist on Luke Schenn’s goal in the first 1:52 of the game was the left wing’s 500th career NHL point.

First shot
This was a rarity for the Flyers -- they scored on their first shot of the game. Schenn’s goal was the result of him pinching to get the Hartnell rebound in the right slot.

Special teams
The Flyers' power play came into the game just 2 for 22 (nine percent) over its previous five games. They got off quickly in this one with Simmonds’ power-play goal at 10:51 that made it 2-0. Perfect tic-tac-toe passing from Giroux across ice to Voracek, back to Simmonds at the left post. Overall, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play while the Wild were 1 for 5.

Penalty kill
The Flyers had to kill off 1:40 of the Wild’s two-man advantage in the first period and gave up a five-on-three goal to Mikael Granlund after Ryan Suter had hit the crossbar and Jason Pominville had a shot over an empty net.

The Flyers have given up five such goals this season. That made it 2-1.

Different goalie
The Flyers caught a break with Wild goalie Josh Harding out ill. They faced Nick Backstrom, who came into play with a 3.19 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Big hit
Zac Rinaldo on Granlund in the second period that had Backstrom screaming at the officials.

Big saves
Mason’s shorthanded stop on Pominville early in the second with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead and his point-blank stop in the third period on Mikko Koivu coming down the slot with the score 3-1, which was even more outstanding.

Faceoffs
The Wild did a number on the Flyers in the first period, winning 67 percent of the draws. Sean Couturier was 1 for 6.

Streaking
Giroux and Voracek each have career-high point streaks. Giroux’s is seven games, Voracek’s is eight games.

Scratches
Steve Downie (upper-body injury) and Erik Gustafsson (left knee sprain); defenseman Hal Gill and forward Jay Rosehill were healthy scratches.

Road trip
The Flyers leave Friday afternoon for a six-game road swing. Although they will be back at the Skate Zone for practice on Jan. 6, they will play one more road game Jan. 7 at New Jersey.

Home again
The next Flyers home game is Jan. 8 against Montreal.

Loose pucks
Minnesota came into the game with a 1-6-1 record in its last eight road games, a stat that heavily favored the Flyers. … The Flyers will not practice again at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., until Friday morning before leaving after for Edmonton.

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.