Analysis: This is Mason's Time
If you go back into the early episodes of the TCL Flyers podcast, you'll hear me boldly proclaim Ray Emery as the Flyers' starting goaltender in 2013-14. Why? He had shown an ability to be competitive after suffering from a debilitating condition called avascular necrosis in 2010. He also proved to be a valuable backup on a juggernaut Chicago Blackhawks team that won hockey's greatest prize.
Steve Mason, that other guy, played well during his seven-game tryout at the 2013 season's conclusion. Prior to that, I, and many others, fell into the trap of thinking of Mason as the sad sack goalie from The Buckeye State with undersized pads who produced a record fit for the NHL's version of a discard pile. That span simply wasn't enough to believe.
After capturing the Calder trophy in 08-09 with ten shutouts, and a save percentage of .916, he amassed a record of 63-79-20 as a member of the Blue Jackets, or 36 games under .500. His save percentage teetered on the verge of atrocious at .898 in that span as well.
How could anyone be confident about that track record? I can't think of many other reasons why it took pretty much only the beleaguered Michael Leighton to pry him away from the Blue Jackets.
Fast forward a whole year, and he is the Flyers' undisputed number-one netminder with numbers nearly identical to his rookie season. Not to mention, a hefty payday of $12.3 million headed his way over the next three years. Crazy turnaround, no doubt.
Egg, meet face.
With any degree of playoff success this upcoming week, he has a chance to shake off what has been a dubious record since 2009. Many hockey fans and media types alike still hold to this pervasive notion that the city of Philadelphia is some how, some way, a goalie graveyard. Many seem to forget about Marty Biron, but I digress.
Simply put, this is Mason's time.
His status for game one at "The Garden" still has yet to be confirmed by Paul Holmgren or Craig Berube. He has been listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury since colliding with Pittsburgh's Jayson Megna on April 12. It will be curious to see if he does indeed start game one, and how well he performs.
It would really be something if Mason could break what has been a dubious eight-game losing streak at MSG with a sparkling performance in game one. No pressure or anything, but how reassuring would that performance be for his confidence and track record?
It would be even better if Mason could lead this team to victory as the true, honest-to-goodness X-factor that outdueled one of the game's best netminders, Henrik Lundqvist. If Mason fails, however, oh, how the questions will roll in about goalie graveyards, subpar defenses, curses, cultures, Mason's confidence, et cetera, et cetera.
Let's all hope that doesn't happen, for all of our sakes.
His last foray into the postseason wasn't exactly graceful. His scrappy Blue Jackets team proved to be vastly overmatched against a veteran, Stanley Cup Final-bound Detroit Red Wings team. He lost all four decisions with a GAA of 4.27, and a save percentage of .878.
Mason, even with a hard-fought series loss, could erase a lot of dubious history. He could erase that bad playoff performance, his awful tenure in Columbus and his current injury status.
This is Mason's time to prove he is a worthy NHL netminder. The wait continues to see if he will start game one, but if he does, the pressure will be on.