Steve Mason flashes old form in Flyers' shutout

usa-steve-mason-philadelphia-flyers.jpg

Steve Mason flashes old form in Flyers' shutout

It has been a while since Flyers goalie Steve Mason resembled his Stone Cold self.

Six straight games in which three, four, five goals were the norm.

Not Tuesday night. Not against Detroit.

This time, the Mason we had come to revere with controlling rebounds and tracking shots and making huge, timely, difficult saves, reappeared during a 5-0 rout of the Red Wings.

“A lot of playing comfortable is the way the guys play in front of me, and tonight was a better effort than we’ve had,” Mason said. “There’s still some things that we need to work on, but it was a cleaner game than we’ve played recently.”

He had 33 saves in collecting his second shutout of the season. It was only the fourth time in Flyers’ history they had shut out the Wings.

“He played well,” said coach Craig Berube. “That team attacks as good as any team in the league and they put a lot of pucks on net. He looked good in net.”

First period to last, Mason had a bead on the puck. Six saves alone on Daniel Alfredsson.

“That had a lot to do with our forwards pushing pressure on them, making sure they were shooting the puck quicker and our defensemen getting in the shooting lanes,” Mason said of puck tracking.

“We’ve been getting away from the simple things that make you a successful hockey club and tonight we got back to a better job of doing those things. Like I said, there are still things we need to clean up in order to be winning on a more consistent basis.”

It was very different from previous games when Mason and Ray Emery were facing a barrage of shots and early goals to put them in a hole.

The breakouts weren’t picture perfect, but it worked to reduce pressure in the crease.

“For the most part, but at the same time I think we need to do a better job still of getting out of our zone,” Mason said.

“Cleaner breakouts that will take stress off our defensive-zone play and make winning hockey games easier. Tonight a lot of good things were done, and we’ll take into consideration to our big road trip coming up.”

With a three-game, six-day trip to the West Coast starting on Thursday, this was pretty much a must-win for the Flyers to snap a four-game losing skid.

“Yeah, and when we’re playing the three teams we have coming up we’re gonna make sure we have our best hockey,” Mason said. “Because if we don’t have it out there we are not going to win hockey games.

“You take it for what it’s worth. And it’s worth two points, and you look at video tomorrow and make sure that we realize the things we did well.

“But at the same time, I’ve said it a couple times already, we still did some things we have to get out of our game in order to be a more consistent hockey club. You don’t make this a bigger thing than it was, that’s one way to look at it I think.”

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."