Flyers win has them still thinking playoffs

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason stretches out in the goal crease during a break in the action against the Rangers as he attempted to play through cramping caused by dehydration.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason stretches out in the goal crease during a break in the action against the Rangers as he attempted to play through cramping caused by dehydration.
Posted: April 18, 2013

WHAT IF?

Two simple words, combined together, to provide one impossible question for the Flyers to answer. What if the Flyers' four-game losing streak last week were, instead, only two games?

The question makes you wonder, after Steve Mason perfectly encapsulated the Flyers' gutsy, 4-2 win over the Rangers by refusing to leave the game - despite severe cramps caused by dehydration - as he clung to the lead and his team's scant playoff hopes.

Mason slugged some Gatorade during timeouts, took a Motrin and waved off a stretching Ilya Bryzgalov.

"It was a game that as a hockey player, you want to be a part of," said Mason, who stopped 38 of 40 shots to stonewall the visiting Rangers Tuesday night. "It was an important game for myself and the team. It was a 'must' win in terms of the playoff race, with them being in the eighth spot right now. It was a good performance and a big win."

Mason outdueled reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist to hand the Flyers only their second win against the Rangers over their last 13 meetings.

It was perhaps the Flyers' best outing by a goaltender through their first 43 games of the season, as Mason is showing signs of his Calder Trophy-winning self in his first four games since being acquired from Columbus 2 weeks ago. Mason called the last four seasons in Columbus "a drain mentally; there were so many negatives there."

Tuesday night marked Mason's first win as a Flyer. He's compiled a .941 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average in four outings. His statistics are even more impressive when you consider the mostly minor league defense that's been suiting up in front of him.

"He looked like his first year, when he won the rookie of the year," said Jake Voracek, who was his teammate in Columbus that season. "He was all over the place. He's made a lot of huge stops for us. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He got that second wind when he was traded here, I think you can definitely tell when he's in the crease."

Mason said he already has tweaked his game under the tutelage of goaltending coach Jeff Reese.

"It's a fresh start with an entire new organization, new fans, teammates, just a breath of fresh air," Mason said. "We've been working on things. The main thing has been reducing my depth off the rush and making my game more simple. I'm 6-4, and I can take up a lot of the net, more than most guys."

Kimmo Timonen said that Mason looked "really calm" and that his "calm gave us confidence." He also lauded Mason's puck-playing abilities, which broke up the Rangers' forecheck.

Amazingly, thanks to Mason, the Flyers are still talking about playoffs in their locker room.

With their latest flirtatious relationship with the standings, the Flyers were at 22nd overall in the NHL standings after the game. They began the week in 26th, with 8.1 percent of the pingpong balls in the draft lottery for the No. 1 overall pick. At 22nd, the Flyers would have only 2.7 percent of the pingpong balls.

The Flyers are in no man's land - between a playoff berth and a true lottery position.

Their 2.7 percent shot at No. 1 overall prospect Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, is still better than their playoff chances at this point. A win against the Rangers only bumped them up to a 0.8 percent chance, according to SportsClubStats.com. Even if they win all five of their remaining games, the Flyers will have only a 23.3 percent chance.

The Flyers (41 points) still trail the eighth-place Rangers (46) by five points with five to play. It's borderline ludicrous to think that the Rangers, Jets (44) and Sabres (42) will all completely fall apart in the process.

"If the team gives up, you won't get those kind of games," Timonen said. "That's a good sign. Everyone is still on board. We need some help around the league."

It all makes you wonder. What if? Two simple words. One huge answer. The Rangers, and, in turn, the No. 1-seeded Penguins, would all be sweating profusely.

Slap shots

The Flyers honored the family of fallen Philadelphia firefighter Michael Goodwin at Tuesday night's game . . . The Flyers got their first up-close look at Ryan Clowe as a Ranger since he was acquired at the NHL trade deadline. Clowe was a player the Flyers targeted . . . New Flyer Jay Rosehill took on former Flyer Arron Asham in a solid, second-period bout . . . Peter Laviolette tied Paul Holmgren for third on the Flyers' all-time coaching register with his 264th game behind the bench. Laviolette hit the 750-game milestone on Monday in Montreal for his career.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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