Better With Popcorn

Mason Stops All in Flyers Loss

On Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers put forth a stellar effort in a win over Pittsburgh. With some sturdy goaltending and a couple of fortunate bounces, the team looked more like the Stanley Cup contenders that most have had them pegged to be this year. Thursday night, the sturdy goaltending was present for both the Flyers and the Atlanta Thrashers. Only this time, the fortunate bounces went in the other direction.

Philadelphia dictated the tempo of the game for the first 40 minutes, outshooting the Thrashers 24-14. However, every time they found any offensive continuity they would find their way to the penalty box. While their penalty killing was spectacular, they desperately needed a goal. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made some fantastic saves and was flawless heading into the third stanza.

After 10:22 of play in the final period, the Thrashers got the bounce that both teams had so desperately sought. Atlanta forward Evander Kane beat Braydon Coburn behind the net and centered a pass for Nik Antropov. Antropov extended his point streak to three games as the puck deflected off of his skate and through Bobrovsky’s five-hole to give the Thrashers the advantage.

Once the Thrashers tallied, the Flyers’ offensive attack came at the visitors furiously. Shot after shot was turned aside by Atlanta goalie Chris Mason, although the biggest save of the game was not. With less than ten seconds remaining in regulation, the Flyers sent as much traffic as possible to the front of the net and the puck eventually found the stick of the team’s leading goal scorer, Jeff Carter.

With Mason sprawled forward, Carter had an open net with a chance to tie the game. However, his momentum took him away from the goal, and his wrist-shot rang off the goalpost and was eventually covered up. After a failed faceoff attempt, the game was over and Mason had his shutout.

It certainly wasn’t a lack of trying that kept the Flyers off the scoreboard on Thursday, as the team registered 43 shots on Mason and 19 in the third period alone. However, they had some stellar chances in the first period and failed to convert. Their propensity to make the ‘perfect’ play haunted them early as it has for stretches in the season.

However, Mason was brilliant in net when he had to be and when the game’s defining moment hung in the balance, the puck bounced in his favor. For all that is said about being lucky and good, Mason was a bit of both and it made all the difference.

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette has preached to the media and his team all season about the level of play on the ice being more important than the result. In that respect, the box score is far more negative than the team’s level of play on Thursday. The only glaring weaknesses in the loss were the power play and the lack of discipline that the team showed.

On the man advantage, the Flyers were inconsistent once again. Some of their opportunities generated many chances some of great quality. Other power play possessions saw no shots on goal, which is a reoccurring theme with the Orange and Black. And, despite the success of their penalty killing unit, each penalty they took interrupted any continuity on offense.

In the first period, the team took two penalties, one at the 4:15 mark and the other less than six minutes later at 10:04. The second period brought more of the same, although with an additional infraction. Just 4:38 into the period, the Flyers were penalized for having too many men on the ice. Less than five minutes later, defenseman Andrej Meszaros served two minutes for roughing Kane. Forward Kris Versteeg added the team’s final penalty of the period with just less than four minutes remaining in the period.

There is rarely a good time to take a penalty, but the trips to the penalty box on Thursday were especially ill-timed. Once the team would get in a ‘groove’ on the offensive side of the puck, the penalty kill would be forced to skate out onto the ice and stop an Atlanta surge. The lack of offensive rhythm coupled with Mason’s strong play created just the second time in the team’s last 11 contests where they left the rink without a point.

Philadelphia has no time to sit and ponder their performance in Thursday’s loss. Instead, the team will turn around and hope to get back in the win column Friday night in New Jersey. Discipline and special teams play will continue to go a long way in determining this year’s Flyers’ fate. Friday night’s contest will be no different. If the team can stay out of the penalty box and find a way to cash in on their power play opportunities, they will likely see a different result against the Devils than that of Thursday night.

A good bounce or two wouldn’t hurt either.

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