Young Flyers have growing up to do

May, 1, 2014
May 1
1:18
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Two words said it all.

After his team was eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek was asked what the difference in the series was.

“One goal,” he replied.

Two words. So simple. So accurate.

And so painful to swallow.

Philadelphia’s season started with a stunning coaching change and a franchise-worst 1-7 start, and ended with a 2-1 loss to New York in Game 7 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

“Everyone feels lousy, obviously, but I’m proud of our players,” said Craig Berube, who took over behind the bench after Peter Laviolette was fired just three games into the season.

“They went through a lot this year. We were stuck in a hole for awhile, and they battled out of it and stuck together. There’s a lot of character in our locker room.”

The difference in Wednesday night’s game was one goal, and three words: the second period.

Following a scoreless opening frame, the Rangers tallied twice in the second, getting goals from Daniel Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot and outshooting the Flyers, 18-5.

[+] EnlargeSteve Mason
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesSteve Mason proved to be one of the key parts of a solid young core in Philadelphia.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who scored 28 goals during the regular season and two more in the playoffs, had a chance to get his team on the board with four minutes left in the middle frame. But with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist down and the top half of the net open, Giroux fired high.

“I was trying to get away from their D, and I’m not sure if (Anton Stralman) got his stick on it,” Giroux said. “I shot up high because the goalie was low.”

The Flyers got within a goal in the third when rookie Jason Akeson tallied his second of the postseason, but that’s as close as they would come.

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Voracek said. “You come so close, do-or-die and lose that critical Game 7. That’s hockey. We got to make sure and learn from it and use it in the future.”

In the end, the power-play may have done the Flyers in: they went 5-for-8 in their three wins, 1-for-13 in their four losses.

“Special teams are important,” said Vincent Lecavalier, whose team killed off 21 straight Rangers power plays to end the series but still lost. “They were aggressive and they played well on the PK tonight.”

Throughout a Stanley Cup drought that has now reached 38 years, Philadelphia’s Achilles heal has always been goaltending, but even in the loss Steve Mason proved he might be the one to change that. After missing the early part of the series due to a concussion, Mason started the final four games, compiling a 1.97 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

He made 31 saves in Game 7, several of them -- including his highway robbery of Derek Stepan at the doorstep in the second -- of the highlight reel variety.

If Mason were healthy throughout the series, who knows, maybe the Rangers would be the team going home.

“From the time he took over until now, he’s really developed into a terrific goalie,” Berube said of Mason.

With a young core in place that features Giroux (26 years old), Mason (25), Wayne Simmonds (25), Voracek (24), Akeson (23), Sean Couturier (21) and the Schenn brothers (Luke, 24 and Brayden, 22), the Flyers appear primed to be a playoff contender for years to come.

Still, they’re going to have to solidify their defense. And when it comes down to it, their goal-scorers are going to have to score goals in the biggest games.

Historically, they have. This time they came up short.

One goal short.

“For a young team, I think it’s great. This is only going to make it stronger,” Giroux said.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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