Steve Mason open to re-signing with Flyers, but doesn't want platoon role

Steve Mason open to re-signing with Flyers, but doesn't want platoon role

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Steve Mason had his exit interview with Ron Hextall on Tuesday afternoon.

Hextall made no commitment on whether his goaltender will be back next fall.

"They are well aware of where I stand, they have to make their choice," Mason said at the team's breakup day at Flyers Skate Zone. "Hexy kind of left it as we're not closing the door. They have to figure some things out.

"Whatever those things are, I'm not aware of. I just told Hexy, 'Do me the favor and make the decision as soon as possible,' because I have other things to take care of. A house and moving things."

Every previous indication from the Flyers was they are parting ways with Mason, who picked up his 200th career win against Columbus over the final weekend of the season.

Mason, however, made it fairly clear to the Flyers' general manager that goalie platooning doesn't work and if coach Dave Hakstol wants to continue platooning, then he wants no part of coming back to the Flyers.

Mason said how Hakstol used him at the end -- as the Flyers' defined No. 1 -- saw him produce some of his best net play in his career. The season began as a platoon situation between Mason and Michal Neuvirth.

Over his final 17 starts, Mason was 10-5-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts.

His first half was harmed by a left hand injury, which he admitted lingered into January and that he had a stretch of games in which he got worn down -- playing all through December right into the All-Star break -- before Neuvirth got the net and No. 1 (more on Neuvirth here).

"Coming into the season, with Neuvy getting the nod as the No. 1 guy, then fine, you just need to have ... for both of our sakes, you need to have defined roles," Mason said.

In training camp, Hextall said that having Mason and Neuvirth was like having two No. 1 goalies and it was a position of "strength" on the team. Mason said the mini-competition this season -- both were vying for contract renewals -- was flawed.

"Doesn't work," Mason said. "And it's shown throughout the league, it doesn't work. Tampa got rid of their situation. St. Louis got rid of their situation. It's got nothing to do with Neuvy and I as people. I've got no issues with Neuvy. It doesn't work for the goaltending position."

Others would suggest it's a mental thing. Mason showed during his four seasons here that he's a better goalie when he's not looking over his shoulder and knows it's his net.

"It's not mentality, it's the way the position is played," Mason said. "You can't be in and out, in and out. You have to have the flow. I believe, given that flow, I've done well with it.

"Every single team needs a defined starter and backup goalie. Just having that clarity would have simplified it a lot. At the end of the season, having that clarity, the results showed."

Mason's insecurity about the rotation is likely something that the organization feels is a character weakness and goes to mental strength in overcoming such.

Mason said Hakstol agreed with him that once he found the "clarity" of knowing he was No. 1, things worked out better overall for the club.

Asked whether he sensed Hextall might be more flexible to the idea of eliminating a goalie platoon moving forward, Mason said the proof is there for Hextall to see.

"It's a better question for him," Mason said. "I don't believe it's an effective way. I don't think it would work out. I think he probably is [open to the idea]. He's seen the results this year. They weren't what we wanted or what we needed."

Mason said he never "thought it would come down to this," on whether he would be re-signed. He said he envisioned "a number of years here and not having to answer these questions."

"I was looking forward to being here a few more years," he said.

As for working with Anthony Stolarz at the end, Mason said they had a "great working relationship" and felt he had helped him this season.

"If there's a scenario next year where it's Stolie and myself, I would enjoy working with him," Mason said.

Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).