Steve Mason will make his first start in a Flyers uniform this evening when the team travels to Long Island for a critical playoff chase matchup against the New York Islanders.
That will be the storyline tonight: Steve Mason, his play, and whether or not he can help deliver a win in a game that truly could seal the playoff fate should they lose. I feel like we've said that sentence a lot this year, but with just nine games left on the calendar and the Flyers still five points out of the eighth spot, this game tonight against the team that holds that eighth spot is vital.
In reality, I'd like to believe this is just Peter Laviolette finally giving a rest to is starting goaltender, but we all know how much is going to be read into Mason starting such a crucial game tonight (ahem). Let's hope those on the team aren't among those doing that reading.
A win tonight will pull the No. 12-seeded Flyers within three points of the eighth-place Islanders, and the Flyers have played one fewer game that New York which is certainly a good thing as well. Unfortunately, No. 10 Winnipeg and No. 11 Buffalo face off head-to-head against one another this evening, so there are two points guaranteed for one of those teams. Luckily, the Flyers have a game in hand (two games in the Jets' case) over them both as well. If Buffalo wins in regulation the Flyers will still control their fate over both them and Winnipeg, so let's go Sabres.
The loss on Saturday to the Jets was certainly a setback for the Flyers, but if they can turn in a win here tonight against the Islanders they'll still be within striking distance of a playoff spot -- shockingly, amazingly, probably undeservedly. But they need a win tonight for the conversation to continue.
Questions to Answer
1. How does Steve Mason perform in his first start for the Flyers?
2. Do we see the first-period-vs.-Winnipeg version of the Flyers at all tonight?
3. The defense collapsed in the second period Saturday. Can they hold water for 60 minutes vs. NYI?
4. Are the Flyers still in the playoff conversation at the end of the night?