By Sarah Berkowitz
Yo, Ron Hextall, what’s up with the Flyers’ lousy defense and goaltending?
They’re losing close games and after been tied going into the third period in half of their games.
“Once in a while we’re making a really poor error and it’s ending up in our net,” general manager Hextall told the Courier Post yesterday. “I don’t want to say it’s luck because it’s not luck. We’re making the errors, but it seems like every time there’s an error it’s ending up in our net. I think part of that will sort itself out and part of that we’ve got to be better consistently for 60 minutes.”
Flyers’ goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth (above) had the second-worst save percentage in the league.
“Neuvy and I have our own things to clean up before we worry about what’s going on,” said Mason, whose .878 save percentage is a bit above Neuvirth’s .861. “I think as a whole, we need to get cleaner getting out of our own zone. We’ve created our own problems a lot of times where it kind of bites us in the butt and causes a goal to happen. First and foremost, gotta worry about stopping the puck, and if Neuvy and I stop the puck at a better rate, our in-zone play will be better as well.”
Part of what the Flyers can do to help their goalies is eliminating back-door plays. It’s happened a number of times where the goal scorer is all by himself at the side of the net with no defense on him and that happens typically because one defenseman is trying to cover for the other.
“You see an opportunity for someone in one area and you kind of leave your area, your guy, and it presents another opportunity for him,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “You just have to be sure. Sometimes I think we want to be aggressive on loose pucks and when we have an opportunity to close on a guy, we have to close.”
Another problem, as MacDonald pointed out, is exiting the defensive zone. Sometimes the Flyers are trying to push up the ice before they really have possession and end up losing the puck, kind of like a wide receiver in football running before he’s made the catch.
“Not every day you’re going to have 20 guys going at 100 percent. It’s never happened, never will,” Jake Voracek said. “So if you don’t feel good enough, if you feel that you make a mistake and you can’t make up for it, just make a simpler play.”
The most frustrating part for the Flyers is that they’re scoring goals so their record should be much better than 4-5-1.
“When you’re averaging three and a half, four goals a game you should be winning the majority of your hockey games,” Mason said, “and unfortunately that’s not the case because our defensive area needs to be shored up from goaltenders out.”
Coach Dave Hakstol is trying to channel the need to get better away from looking at the first 10 games, which Hextall called, “mediocre.”
“I think we need to factor that into our games coming up because we can’t do anything about the games that are passed,” Hakstol said. “Frustration isn’t a word that I’m real interested in. I think it’s evaluate where the areas that we have to clean up and then doing the work to correct those and exec