Mason 'everything' for Flyers so far this season

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Mason 'everything' for Flyers so far this season

The only bright spot on the Flyers right now is goaltender Steve Mason.

In fact, this is the first time in quite a while you could point to the Flyers and make the statement that while everything else might be up for grabs, there is no issue in goal.

Mason has a 2.37 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He’s given the Flyers a chance in every game he’s played and deserves better than a 1-5 record.

“He’s been everything to us this year,” Wayne Simmonds said. “He’s standing on his head every single game, keeping us in the game, making every single save he can make and it sucks for him because we’re not supporting him on the other end.”

Six times the Flyers have gone into the third period trailing by a goal. That means the game was right there for the taking.

In four of those games, Mason has been the goaltender. In each case, the Flyers lost and another solid effort was wasted.

Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh was yet another example.

Mason is no stranger to poor records, though he never expected this kind of thing in Philadelphia.

“We went a few years in Columbus with a lot of down times,” he said. “A lot of losing went on. When the losses pile up early in the season, it’s easy to let that affect you. But the group of guys we have here, I’m confident we’ll find a solution sooner rather than later.”

Mason simply has no goal support, especially in third periods when the Flyers have been tattooed, 12-2, in scoring.

“When you’re only scoring one goal a game, it is tough to win hockey games and it puts pressure on us when we are in a defensive zone,” Mason said.

“We are going to have to start creating offensive chances in order to begin digging ourselves out of this hole that we’re in.”

He continued to say he feels “confident” in the net. He should. He looks the part.

“This is how I finished off last season, being comfortable here,” Mason said. “That’s just my goal -- maintain consistency. That’s the biggest thing for any goaltender. Be that consistent, solid presence at the back end. That is what I am focused on right now.”

The players feel bad for him.

“Steve has been sharp this season,” Max Talbot said. “He gives us a chance to win every night. If you take away empty-net goals, I mean, 90 percent of the games are one-goal games, so he has been keeping us in the game every night.

“He’s been outstanding. I think once we start putting the puck in the back of the net, it will heighten our chances.”

Mason deserved a better fate against the Penguins for keeping the Flyers in the game 2-1 going into the third period when the Flyers could have been blown out 5-0 in the second.

“It’s obviously tough being a goalie in the net when you are only getting one or two goals a night,” Brayden Schenn said.

“He is probably a little bit frustrated with that because he is playing well and he is making key saves at key times for us and you just like to help him out one night and give him some goal support and we haven’t done that yet.”

The Flyers had hope, but they blew some very good scoring chances in the third period, including a couple open nets.

“Our first two periods weren’t great,” Mason said. “Our second in particular wasn’t a good period in hockey. We’re not going to win games playing like that. In the third period, that’s the way we need to play.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on some chances and before you knew it, the game’s over.”

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).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."