Hockey / Sports

Mason, Flyers look to break out of funks

PHILADELPHIA -- Like the Flyers, goalie Steve Mason is in a major funk.

Mason has a 4.56 goals-against average, an .851 save percentage and just one win in his last six starts -- and has been pulled in three of them. Since signing a $12.3 million, three-year extension on Jan. 18, he has been pulled in two of his three starts.

The Flyers' overall team defense -- yes, that includes the forwards who have not been effective on their backchecks -- are partly to blame.

That said, Mason has not been sharp in the last two-plus weeks. The player who, in the first three months, looked like he had regained his confidence and rediscovered his rookie-of-the-year form, has started to resemble the goalie who struggled in Columbus for three-plus seasons.

"You're playing a team game and everybody is involved," coach Craig Berube said after he put the Flyers through a rare practice Sunday on the same day at the Flyers Wives Carnival. "Everybody's got to do better."

Berube thinks Mason's confidence has dipped.

"I think there are parts of his game, like our team, where he looks pretty good," said Berube, whose team will take a four-game losing streak into Tuesday's game against visiting Detroit. "But when things go wrong, or something happens, the confidence level drops."

Mason, 25, whose rebound control has slipped, said "there have been a couple of bad bounces, a couple of goals I would have liked to have stopped. It's just about getting back to making the saves I need to. I've been working hard to find a solution, and the only way I'm going to get out of this little funk is to keep working hard."

Asked if there was one area of his game that needed improvement, Mason said, "I'd like to improve everything. When you're not having success, it's easy to overthink things, and I try not to do that. ... Unfortunately, we haven't had a whole lot of that (practice) time, so right now, after today's practice, it was good to feel good out there."

Berube put the Flyers through a hard practice in Voorhees that included lots of skating drills.

"I think we expected this after our last few games," Mason said. "It's good. We needed it. We needed a good pace out there. We needed the guys to work hard. I'm pretty happy with everybody's effort out there."

The Flyers are hoping they rebound from Saturday's 6-1 loss to Boston the way they did when they were embarrassed by Washington, 7-0, on Nov. 1. After that defeat, they went on a 7-1-2 run.

"We've been our own worst enemies," Mason said. "The reason we haven't been having successes is because we haven't been working hard enough. When you're playing against the teams we have recently -- teams that are playing for playoff spots within our own division -- we shouldn't have trouble getting up for games like that, and we just haven't done a good enough job.

"The only good news is, we have a solution -- and it's hard work. Today was a good start."

The Flyers have surrendered an average of 36 shots in the last six games.

"We've just been getting hemmed in our own zone," Mason said, adding that the Flyers need to have everybody "on the same page, playing their roles night in and night out because when you have passengers one night and different passengers another night, we're not going to be a successful hockey club."

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