Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Mason backstops team to impressive win

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Mason backstops team to impressive win

The Flyers picked up a really good win on Thursday night with a 5-2 decision over the Winnipeg Jets at the Wells Fargo Center after letting one slip through their fingertips on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

Let’s get into the action with 10 observations:

1. Strong response by the Flyers. The Jets came to town with the NHL’s top goal scorer (Patrik Laine), No. 1 point getter (Mark Scheifele) and four wins in their last five games, a span in which they outscored opponents 20-9. But the orange and black, for once, put it all together with good offensive and defensive play backed by strong goaltending.

2. An underrated performance by Steve Mason. Neither of the two goals allowed were bad. The one was just a product of beautiful passing by the Jets. Mason made some quality saves and difficult stops against an offense that was rolling. He finished with 30 saves after calling himself out the game prior.

3. Mark Streit made up for the absence of Shayne Gostisbehere and his mighty shot by lacing a slap shot home in the second period to extend the Flyers’ lead to 3-1. Gostisbehere was sitting up in the press box wearing a suit. He was pretty emotionless as expected after being healthy-scratched by head coach Dave Hakstol. Streit leads all Flyers defensemen in goals (four) and points (11). Trade bait when the deadline comes?

4. You can’t fault Matt Read’s drive. He works his tail off and that’s why he’s hung on to his job and spot in the lineup after underwhelming the past two seasons. General manager Ron Hextall and Hakstol extolled the 30-year-old prior to training camp for his work ethic. So far this season, it’s paid off. His hustle set up the Flyers’ second goal in the first period. Read won a foot race to the puck by full-out diving and whacking a pass to Michael Raffl all alone for a breakaway tally.

5. Sean Couturier scored three goals in the first three games of the season. Since then, he went a bit quiet goal-wise. He started the game’s scoring with a nice shot top shelf to give him just his second marker in 15 games since the opening three.

6. Claude Giroux registered an assist, giving him 364 in his career. He’s now three away from passing Rod Brind’Amour (366) for seventh on the Flyers’ all-time list, and six from passing Rick MacLeish (369) and Eric Lindros (369) for fifth. Giroux has quietly put up at least one point in 14 of the Flyers’ 18 games.

7. Nick Cousins is a scrappy guy and unafraid to stand up for himself against the big boys. The 5-foot-10, 188-pound forward mixed it up with 6-foot-3, 219-pound defenseman Ben Chiarot. At one point, Chiarot had a firm grip of Cousins’ face as the two were pressed up against the glass following a whistle.

8. Flyers prospect Pascal Laberge was in the press box with the healthy scratches as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered on this vicious hit. The 18-year-old has not played for his junior club Victoriaville since Oct. 15, the day of the hit. Laberge, drafted by the Flyers in the second round this June, is a kid that’s been through quite a bit.

9. This was just the second time the Flyers scored four or more goals and allowed two or fewer in the same game this season.

10. It was Tough Guys Night at the Wells Fargo Center as part of the season-long celebration of the Flyers’ 50th anniversary. Throughout the game, the Flyers honored some of the organization’s toughest players with video tributes and arena-vision interviews.

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Philadelphia Flyers

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Noah Cates became a hit in high school.

His first year after graduation, though, he didn't exactly mind being away from the classroom. From Stillwater, Minnesota, Cates traveled south to Omaha, Nebraska, for a full season of USHL hockey with the Lancers.

A nice, little perk to the decision?

"No school that year for me, so that was fun just to play hockey," Cates said with a smile three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "Develop, work on everything."

Despite not hitting the books, Cates, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick of the Flyers, learned a lot, gaining a knowledge base he'll use moving forward.

Because it's back to school.

In mid-to-late August, the 19-year-old is headed to the University of Minnesota Duluth to continue his education and hockey career with the 2018 national champions, where he'll be joined by his older brother Jackson Cates.

"Very excited," the younger Cates said.

A year away from home to prepare for the college hockey life did Cates well. He grew on and off the ice, which built confidence — especially important ahead of development camp, a world junior summer showcase and his freshman season.

"Just how to be a pro, show up every day," Cates said. "It's a long season but you have to be consistent — that was a big part for me. Consistently, doing the right thing, day in and day out.

"It's all about confidence. If you're confident you can play with those guys and that your body can hold up, you can do it. That's just a big part of it and what I developed this year."

Cates, a left winger with a true offensive skill set, came on strong after a feeling-out start to the season in which he totaled 14 points (six goals, eight assists) over his first 22 games. From then on, he broke out for 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in his final 38 contests, finishing second on the Lancers with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 60 games, while posting a plus-21 rating. 

"Second-half league for me, just got more comfortable with the team, the coaches, the league," Cates said. "The team did well, so I kind of fit in, did my part."

The offense has always been a part of Cates' game. Beyond the statistics, what truly stood out from the 2017-18 season was the added strength to his 6-foot-1 frame. Cates weighed 165 pounds at 2017 development camp. He said he started the year with Omaha at 170. Impressively, by season's end, he was a solid 180 to 185.

"That was a big part, how I progressed throughout the season," Cates said. "That was my main goal going there to step into college hockey and get ready to play against those older guys, so it was a really good season in that case."

Cates will now take his next test — back in class and on the ice.

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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