Flyers

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.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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AP Images

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

Dougherty
If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Hall
There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl