WHAT MATTERS MOST
VOORHEES, N.J. – The semi-circle was already formed. Cameramen lining up shoulder to shoulder at the base of the horseshoe; writers, with digital recorders and note pads off to either side.
They were waiting inside the Flyers locker room for the next player to arrive. Considering it was a day off the ice for most of the Flyers and a morning spent in meetings and watching video, it was a guessing game as to who would emerge from behind the door that leads to the private areas of the locker room.
The door opened. Walking through were Claude Giroux – who the media wanted to talk to see if he stood by his prediction of a Game 4 win after Tuesday night – and Steve Mason – who they wanted to know if he would start Game 4.
For a moment it looked like the media was going to have to split up to decide which was a bigger story – the captain’s guarantee, or the possible return of the starting goalie?
Mason saved everyone the gut-wrenching choice and agreed to wait until Giroux was done before he spoke. There were sighs of relief as such choices are not often desired by the men and women tasked with bringing you the latest news.
But the reality is, neither one should be the spotlight story.
Giroux isn’t exactly channeling his inner Leonidas with his statements. He kind of sneaks them in there, in an even-keeled, matter-of-fact manner, almost as a throw away near the end of an interview.
“We will make the playoffs.” Ho hum. We’ll win Game 4…” O.K.
He’s not coming out guns a-blazing. He’s not delivering a burn to the camera lens. Nor is he delivering his comments with a wry smile. He’s just talking – as he does all the time – and saying what he truly believes.
It’s his confidence, which never really borders on cocky. That’s it.
Meanwhile, Mason reiterated, as he did following his brief appearance in Game 3, that he’s healthy and he’s good to go if coach Craig Berube decides to tab him as his Game 4 starter.
There’s nothing else to report, as Berube will likely wait until at least tomorrow – if not longer – before declaring a starter for Friday.
And if Mason is in net – and for the purposes of this column, let’s assume he is – the game will still be won and lost in front of him more so than it will in his goal crease.
Sure, there’s a possibility of Mason doing the proverbial head stand to steal a game. That, of course, is equally likely to Mason not playing up to snuff and being routed.
Either way, what happens in front of him is far more imperative to the success and/or failure of the team in this First Round playoff series.
“When a team blocks  shots, that’s on us,” Berube said. “[But] This isn’t a time to put your heads down. We lost a game and we’re down 2-1. We’ve got to change a few things and we’ve got to be better and we need to take that into a game on Friday.”
The few changes are probably going to be more schematic than personnel-wise – although Berube has been known to surprise in that area as well.
First and foremost, the Flyers are going to look to change their power play, which Berube thinks has become too predictable. He still thinks the same units will work together, but maybe take a different approach.
“We got to find a way to not allow them to block the shots – whether it’s switching up our formation or trying a couple other things,” said Wayne Simmonds.
So, don’t expect that same setup with the man advantage – and don’t expect the Flyers to continue to wind up and fire slap shots into the Rangers forwards’ and defensemen’s shin pads.
And whatever you do, don’t expect these Flyers to be rattled. They are definitely remaining confident and nonplussed by their current lot in the series.
“You guys are hitting the panic button here,” Giroux reminded the media after a particular line of questioning that focused on the negative. “If you look at [Game 3] we did a lot of good things. Now we just have to stick with it and if we do a lot of the same things we’re going to win Friday.”
How that’s done is more about a mindset than x’s and o’s.
“Keep pushing and keep going,” Simmonds said. “It’s easy to look back and say what you could have done differently. But we still have a lot of games in front of us and we have to make it count in the next game. You keep taking shots and get them on net. You try to take [Henrik] Lundqvist’s eyes away. You go in there and get those second and third opportunities. Sometimes you have to will the puck into the net.”
And in the end, how the Flyers play with the puck and how they get shots on Lundqvist will determine whether the series is 2-2 heading into Sunday afternoon, or the team is facing elimination.
Mason may or may not be part of that process, but his play alone, and analyzing whether or not he is “rusty” after having not played for 13 days is just easy pre-game banter.
“You want to have your ‘A’ game every game no matter what the situation,” Mason said following an hour-long practice with the Flyers scratches and black aces (Phantoms call-ups). “I have to just make sure I utilize the remaining [time] to get ready for when I do get in there and I’m ready to go.
“Playoff games have a different intensity with more on the line, but I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with that.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers