Gameday vs Phoenix: Flyers Going For Two In A Row

The Matchup

Philadelphia Flyers (1-3-0) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (2-2-0)
Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia, Pa.
7:00 p.m. on CSN Philly and 93.3 WMMR

Setting the Stage

The Flyers picked up their first win of the season under new head coach Craig Berube by defeating the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Having started the year 0-3-0, now seems as good of a time as ever to pick get closer to .500 by playing a team coming off of a back-to-back situation.

Brayden Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier have continued to impress with strong offensive outputs for a team that can't score. It might be time for different players to make their mark this season.

Phoenix defeated Detroit 4-2 last night in a resilient effort coming back from two different deficits. Defenseman Michael Stone's seeing-eye slapshot proved to be the difference, and Antoine Vermette sealed it away with an empty-netter. 

This team started the season by defeating the New York Rangers (who hasn't?) before losing two straight. Defeating Detroit has put the Yotes in a good mood.

What to Expect

The Flyers will see one of two Coyotes teams. One plays stifling defense, the other can't defend. In Phoenix victories this season, they have outscored their opponents 8-3. In losses, Phoenix has been dominated by a score of 10-2, being outshot 79-57. Along with stalwart sniper Radim Vrbata, GM Don Maloney acquired Mike Ribeiro to supplement a historically iffy offense.

If this offensively-loaded-yet-somehow-offensively-deficient Flyers team runs into Phoenix's buzzsaw defensive style under head coach Dave Tippett, it might be a long night. It is now past time for players like Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to post their first goals of the season.

If that doesn't happen, look for Lecavalier and Schenn to continue their respective strong starts.

The Masked Men

Philadelphia: Steve Mason (1-2-0, .935 sv%, 2.02 GAA)
One of Mason's biggest criticisms continues to be his body of work in Philadelphia compared to his work in Columbus. Some pundits point to being out of shape, or having a questionable defense in front of him in Ohio. However, Mason holds a record of 5-4-0, a save percentage of .940 and a goals against average of 1.96 as a Flyer.

25-year-old Mason has officially burst onto the scene as the Flyers' starting goaltender after a strong start in net this season.

Phoenix: Mike Smith (2-2-0, .911 sv%, 3.01 GAA)
Smith will get the start for the Coyotes. Smith is coming off of a solid 28 save effort against Detroit in a 4-2 win. A big man and an astute puck mover, Smith will frustrate teams with his ability to steal games and act as a third defenseman in the defensive zone.

He has started all four games for Phoenix, leaving backup Thomas Greiss still without a start this season. Having a respectable .911 save percentage with the two blowout losses the Coyotes have suffered this season is a testament to how good of a netminder Smith is.
 

Keys to the Game

1. Home ice advantage! The Flyers will play five of their next seven games on Wells Fargo Center ice. While they lost the first one, establishing WFC as a tough place to play will go a long way in having a successful season. That includes scoring more than one goal a game.

2. Get Giroux involved. If Claude Giroux happened to be a library book, he would be long past due. He needs to trust his teammates to make some plays too. Giroux continues to do everything on his own, suffocating his linemates, and himself. Defenses know how dangerous he is. Now they need to know how dangerous his linemates are.

3. Mason keeps rolling. A win here goes a long way in stopping any "goalie controversy" that arises this season. It would come as no surprise that Ray Emery starts tomorrow's game against Detroit in a back-to-back situation, but it would also not be a surprise if Mason also picked up the start either.

Quotable

"I feel very confident with my game. It was nice to come in here at the end of last season and start building a foundation, something to build off of. That carried through the summer with a positive mindset and into training camp. I'm taking small baby steps to get better." - Steve Mason