Flyers drop preseason game at New Jersey

ASSOCIATED PRESS Steve Mason allows second-period goal to the Devils' Damien Brunner.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Steve Mason allows second-period goal to the Devils' Damien Brunner.
Posted: September 27, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. - With just one more preseason tuneup remaining before Wednesday's opener against Toronto, Peter Laviolette has a short list of concerns.

One is the Flyers' quiet offense, which has netted only 12 goals in six exhibition contests. Another is his team's compete level, as the Flyers slept-walked through two periods last night before picking it up in the third with jobs on the line.

"That's what I don't get," Laviolette said. "We are in an evaluation period, a chance for guys to put their cards on the table and I was disappointed in that tonight."

Not on Laviolette's list of concerns is Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on his first 13 shots before New Jersey added an empty-netter in the 4-1 preseason loss.

"I thought he played terrific," Laviolette said. "It was a tough situation for him to be in. When we didn't have a lot of composure with the puck and things were turning over and the attempts were coming at him, he stayed in it. Mentally, he was sharp."

Mason likely finished up his preseason slate - Ray Emery is scheduled to start tonight in Washington - with nine goals-against on 64 shots in 2 1/2 (144 minutes). He has a goals-against average of 3.75.

Mason's save percentage (.859) is fourth-worst among the 60 or so goaltenders who expect to see regular time in the NHL this season. Only Cam Ward (.817), Martin Brodeur (.816) and Martin Biron (.821) are worse.

By comparison, Emery has a 2.44 goals-against-average and .902 save percentage. Devils starter Cory Schneider - acquired from Vancouver this summer to be the heir to Brodeur's lair - finished the preseason with one goal against on 81 shots over 10 periods.

Mason's numbers aren't pretty. Yet, they should be thrown out the window. For one, it's a ridiculously small sample size - roughly half of the one with which Mason wooed the Flyers last season after being acquired from Columbus.

More importantly, none of the three games Mason has started were with a single lineup in front of him that resembles a regular NHL roster. Last night, the Devils iced nearly their complete regular-season roster sans Jaromir Jagr.

Here were Mason's defensemen in his three starts:

* Game 1 vs. Toronto, Sept. 15: Nick Grossmann, Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen, Andrej Meszaros, Hal Gill.

* Game 2 vs. Rangers, Sept. 17: Brandon Manning, Braydon Coburn, Mark Streit, Mark Alt, Samuel Morin, Gill.

* Game 3 at New Jersey, last night: Meszaros, Grossmann, Schenn, Gustafsson, Lauridsen, Gill.

"We didn't give Mason very much help," Scott Laughton admitted. "We kind of left him out to dry."

Mason also didn't have a lot of firepower up front. Scott Hartnell was the only member of the Flyers' top line to play in one of Mason's exhibition starts and that was only for 28 minutes, since Mason split the game with Anthony Stolarz. Neither Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, nor Hartnell played last night.

"You can use that as an excuse, but that's not what I want to do," Mason said. "We had an opportunity to come in here tonight and outwork what is pretty much their full lineup. We didn't do that."

Even in a competitive training camp, Mason is maturely able to look past the numbers and focus on his mechanics and maneuvering.

He didn't really have a chance on any of the Devils' three goals: a one-timer from the crease, a severe breakdown in coverage and point shot that was deflected at close range.

"I was pretty happy with tonight," a confident Mason said. "I was real patient, they had some pretty quality chances. For the most part, I felt good about it."

In the grand scheme of this 82-game marathon, Wednesday's opening-night starter will be irrelevant. When it comes time for Laviolette and his staff to determine who will be in net, Mason and Emery are still on a level playing field.

"I thought his game tonight was really good," Laviolette said. "There's not a lot you can do on those goals. His work in practice has been good. I thought he's been really sharp when he's played."

Slap shots

The Devils were without goaltender Martin Brodeur, who flew back to Montreal to be with his family after the passing yesterday of his father, Denis, at the age of 82. Denis Brodeur Sr. was the photographer for the Montreal Canadiens for 40 years, and also the Expos during their time there. He could often be seen at games shooting his son and watched him win three Stanley Cups. The NHL acquired the elder Brodeur's 100,000-plus image archive in 2006 . . . Matt Read scored the Flyers' lone goal on a third-period breakaway . . . Tye McGinn, Ben Holmstrom and Nick Cousins made the trip from Adirondack to suit up . . . Assistant coach Joe Mullen was in Pittsburgh, invited to coach the All-American Prospects Game by USA Hockey.
On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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