Mason 'everything' for Flyers so far this season

slideshow-flyers-mason-tunnel-uspresswire.jpg

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.”

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.