By Jack McCaffery
VOORHEES, N.J. >> Early in the postseason, Steve Mason faced a barrage of Washington Capitals shots. Late in it, he faced a more threatening barrage. That was the one to his long-term status as the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender.
In a 3-0 series hole and with little alternative, Dave Hakstol replaced Mason with Michal Neuvirth, who won two games, including Game 5 in Washington, with a 44-save shutout. He was almost, but not quite, as spectacular in Game 6, a 1-0 Flyers loss.
“Neuvy came in and he had an unbelievable year,” Mason said Tuesday, as the Flyers rolled out of the Skate Zone for the final time this season. “All the credit to him. He deserved the ice time that he got. As a goalie, you want to play every game. But sometimes you’ve just got to accept the fact that a guy has come in and earned his ice time.
“Moving forward, next year is an entirely new season and both of us have to earn the ice time.”
That seemed to be the message Mason received after meeting individually with Hakstol and Ron Hextall.
“Over the course of the summer I’m going to prepare to be a No. 1 guy,” he said. “Nothing is given. Nothing was given this year. Both of us had to earn playing time. So I think I’ll just go into next season not expecting to be given anything and having to come in and earn everything.”
As for Neuvirth, who will be entering the season in the final year of a two-year contract, he understands that there will be a healthy competition for playing time.
“You know, it’s been a very good year,” Neuvirth said. “Mase has been good as well. I think it’s going to be open for anybody. My goal is to be a No. 1. That’s what I’m hoping for.’’
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When last seen in public, Scott Laughton was being carried off the Wells Fargo Center ice on a stretcher after an oddly unfortunate hit from John Carlson in Game 4 of the Washington series.
Hospitalized and then unavailable for the rest of the series, Laughton resurfaced Tuesday at the Skate Zone.
“I feel great,” he said.
As per Flyers and hockey custom, Laughton would not share the particulars of his injury. But he did say he never lost feeling in his extremities, which was among the early fears.
“I was conscious the whole time,” he said. “It was just a tough play, a really weird play. I know it was scary for a lot of people including myself. Like I said, I really appreciate all the support from all the people who did reach out and everything like that. It really did mean the world to me. It was definitely a scary moment.”
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Not that there was great doubt, but Sean Couturier admitted it was a shoulder injury that kept him out of all but the first 30 minutes of the postseason. Specifically, it was an AC joint separation.
If the Flyers had taken the Caps to a Game 7, Couturier said he was prepared to play.
“I was close to returning,” he said. “I was skating by myself. I tried skating after Game 3 and I couldn't shoot at all. After Game 5, I started skating and I could skate a little bit. It was getting better. But it's tough to say if I was going to be able to play or not.”
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Ryan White's one-year contact with the Flyers is up … and he wouldn't mind an encore.
“I'd like to be back,” the right-wing said. “I think it's a good fit to be here in Philly. I mean, my family loves it here. I love playing here.”
White, 28, played for the Canadiens for five seasons and has been with the Flyers for two seasons. But he had a productive year under Hakstol, playing regularly on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and also down low on the second power-play unit.
“When you get to a spot where you're getting some opportunity and people around the team all kind of have the same mindset as you do, you don't really want to test too many waters, I guess,” White said. “Business is business. Hopefully we can get something done.”
White provided 11 goals and 16 points as a fourth-line player, along with a gritty relentlessness.
“I hope, obviously I had a better season, so maybe it will be a little bit better a market,” he said. “But I would like to be back and be a Flyer.”
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Radko Gudas is a restricted free agent. He, too, hopes and expects to remain a Flyer.
“Obviously I thought I had a good year and I want to stay here as much as possible,” the defenseman said. “I really enjoy playing for Philly. I’m looking forward to staying here.”
Gudas, a key piece acquired from Tampa Bay in the Flyers' 2015 trade of Braydon Coburn, provided five goals, nine assists, some controversial hits and some postseason energy against Alex Ovechkin, among other larger Washington Capitals.
“I’m sure they talked throughout the season, but I think it’s going to be time now that they’ll start talking more,” he said. “We’ll see where the negotiations will go.”
Gudas, 25, will be entering his fifth NHL season, aware that his reputation for rough play and heightened visibility will leave him as a target.
“I think there’s always going to be a target on my back,” he said, “no matter what.”
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Brandon Manning, successfully paired on the blue line with Gudas late in the season and in the playoffs, was also playing on an expiring contract.
He is not aware of any ongoing negotiations, but hopes to return.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” he said. “The Flyers have been good to me. Hexy has been a straight shooter over the few years he's been running the show here.
“Everything moving forward, it's going to be a good time to be a Flyer.”
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Promoted to the Flyers early in the season from the AHL, Shayne Gostisbehere did manage to play 64 games, score 17 goals and help lead a charge into the playoffs. For that, he is expected to be among the finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.
“It would be a tremendous honor to be associated with the award,” he said. “It would be very nice. I can't do it without my teammates. They really helped me along the way.”