Steve Mason gets hydrated as Flyers thirst for consistency

Steve Mason gets hydrated as Flyers thirst for consistency

VOORHEES, N.J. -- No matter how much he drinks, Steve Mason can't get his fill.

That pretty much sums up why the Flyers' goalie left Thursday's game in the third period against New Jersey with severe leg cramps.
 
Mason's cramping was the result of salt deprivation and subsequent dehydration. He says it's been an ongoing issue this season.
 
"I couldn't bend my leg after that goal [they scored]," Mason said. "I always struggle with cramping. I sweat a ton. I put as much fluid as I can in my body, but sometimes, I can't keep up with it.
 
"It's not necessarily dehydration, it's the amount I sweat and my salt level. We try to keep up on it and sometimes, it's hard.
 
"I drink a bunch of different salt drinks, Pedialytes, lots of things with electrolytes. The amount I drink during a game is ridiculous but the amount I sweat counteracts it."
 
Mason had an IV after the game to stabilize himself.
 
Maybe he should try some Italian wine?
 
"In the off-days," Mason said with a laugh.
 
Mason is expected back in goal Sunday night, as the Flyers host Carolina and once again attempt to get back into the wild-card picture.
 
The Flyers remain six points out but have been passed by Florida in the hunt and now have to hurdle four teams to claim the second wild-card spot. Carolina can actually tie the Flyers in points with a win Sunday night.
 
Mason was the goalie of record during the Flyers' dominant 4-0 win over Pittsburgh the night before they collapsed like a tent in the 6-2 loss to the Devils. The inconsistency in the Flyers' play this season has been maddening.
 
Since their 10-game win streak which ended in mid-December, the Flyers have won two in a row just once and three in a row just once.
 
That's it. No win streaks. Instead, they've had three, four-game losing skids amid their "win-lose" scenarios.
 
"The consistency is something we need to address," Mason said. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game.
 
"It's something that we continually seem to be talking about. That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have."
 
The Flyers have not played well against New Jersey for a couple seasons now and frankly, have not played well in Prudential Center ever since the arena opened.
 
"If we had an answer to that, we would change something, to be honest," Jakub Voracek said. "Since I've been, and even when I was in Columbus, we didn't win many games there. I don't think we had that jump last game, which is weird because it's desperation mode right now.
 
"But sometimes, you can't do anything about it. You try to push and can't. We were tired. You could tell from the first shift."
 
Consistency -- or the lack thereof -- was general manager Ron Hextall's main concern a month ago and continues to bother him as the Flyers' playoff chances dwindle down the stretch.
 
"Everybody has to do a better job of mentally engaging into a game," Mason said. "Preparing for every single game to the best of your ability.
 
"Sometimes, when you are tired, those are the games where you have to have your mental game overtake your physical game. It's a matter of finding a way and it wasn't good enough."
 
The Flyers got away with it during their 10-game win streak because momentum, adrenaline and confidence can replace tired legs and win games you should lose.
 
Right now, however, the Flyers are lacking all three of those intangibles.
 
Has the mental preparation and mental toughness been missing most the second half of the season?
 
"That's a good question," Voracek said. "I would need a little longer to think about it. If you don't win, it usually because most of your guys don't play their best. Mental preparation, fatigued, bad luck, in the end, it doesn’t matter, you have to prepare."
 
There are 12 games left for the Flyers. They need help all around because too many teams ahead of them are playing each other at the end.
 
"Six points out, it's not bad, but it's not great," Voracek said. "We have to look at other teams and how they play. It's not only in our hands. You gotta look at the other scores, as well."

Loose pucks
Brandon Manning (right shoulder) skated and is expected back in the lineup. … Nick Cousins (upper body) did not practice. … Hakstol's line combinations remained the same. He said the loss wasn't the result of poor line play as much as a general fatigue throughout the entire team. … Monday's Flyers practice is at the Wells Fargo Center because of team picture day.

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

BOSTON -- Nikita Kucherov had his third career hat trick to lead Tampa Bay to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, snapping the Lightning's three-game losing streak.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and two assists, Brayden Point had a goal and an assist and Anton Stralman also scored to help the Lightning pull three points behind the Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Peter Budaj finished with 28 saves for the Lightning to earn his 29th win of the season. Ondrej Palat had three assists, and Jake Dotchin and Victor Hedman added two each.

Riley Nashy had a goal and an assist for Boston, and David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara also scored. Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots as Boston, which won seven of the first eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, has now lost four straight and six of 11 (see full recap).

Oshie beats Bobrovsky to give Caps SO win
WASHINGTON -- T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington's 35th shot of the game. Orlov's goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead (see full recap).

Senators take down Penguins in shootout
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan scored in the shootout to lift the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Mike Hoffman scored in regulation for the Senators and Mike Condon finished with 34 saves, including two incredible point-blank stops in overtime to keep the game going.

Nick Bonino had the goal in regulation for the Penguins and Matt Murray stopped 29 shots.

After being outplayed for much of the first two periods, the Senators were much better in the third and tied the score 1-1 on the power play at 9:43 as Hoffman beat Murray over the shoulder with a wrist shot just 14 seconds after Matt Cullen was penalized for holding (see full recap).