Over the past three weeks, Steve Mason has clearly been hobbled. The practice incident just before Christmas kicked it off, but recently things have gotten worse - Mason missed a practice and showed signs of playing through pain all week long.
The Flyers were playing a dangerous game by continuing to send their best goalie out there, and today, they suffered the repercussions. Mason went down due to an apparent leg injury in the first period and did not return, so it was left to Ray Emery to backstop the team to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
On one hand, it's easy to understand why Mason continued to earn starts. His play has been anywhere from solid to fantastic even as he's battled through obvious pain, and the Flyers are trying to find any possible way to stay alive in the playoff race, a race they are very close to falling out of entirely.
Unfortunately, now it looks like they may need to do so without one of their top performers this season.
Ray Emery stopped only 10 of 13 shots today, and the Flyers struggled on offense all game. It was a low-event game, with Boston successfully slowing the game down to a crawl, making it very difficult for Philadelphia to move through the neutral zone and generate chances.
The Flyers did have their opportunities, though. Boston handed them six power play opportunities, and while the Flyers managed to score on one of them, they also gave a shorthanded goal back to the Bruins. Aside from a late Claude Giroux goal in the third period, the offense looked just as listless at 5v4 as they did at 5v5.
Boston struggled to create sustained offense as well (a by-product of the style they were playing), but unlike the Flyers, they found a way to capitalize on their opportunities. Simple as that.
A few more observations on the game:
- Nicklas Grossmann is out for one game, and Flyers goalies stopped only 15 of 18 shots. Obviously the team is missing his amazing ability to prevent high-quality scoring chances from going into the net by his mere presence on the ice.
- In other Grossmann-related news, Mark Streit finished with an 88% Corsi For today, primarily paired with Andrew MacDonald. Hmmmmmm.
- Great to see Voracek sneak another point in before the buzzer sounded. He's up to 50 on the year now, still a league-leading total.
- He's been rightfully criticized this year, but it's worth pointing out that R.J. Umberger has actually been playing pretty decent recently. He's been a positive possession player in five out of his last seven games, and the eyes are matching the stats. Thursday was maybe his best game of the year, and he followed it up with another solid performance today. Cross your fingers this continues, because no one is taking on that contract at the deadline.
- Maybe giving Andrew MacDonald a partner who is constantly looking to push the play in the neutral zone is the best move. He's had good numbers with Streit so far as a Flyer (small sample size caveat), and maybe it's because MacDonald doesn't do a ton of backing up when paired with him. Helps to minimize the impact of his biggest weakness.
- Seems like Scott Laughton is hitting a bit of a wall right now. He only received 10:52 minutes of ice time, more befitting a fourth liner than a 2C. Hopefully he gets back to playing the speed through the neutral zone, controlled zone entry game that got everyone so excited about him last month.