How Steve Mason can make a difference for the Flyers
With the way Flyers' goaltender Steve Mason played this year, people had every reason to believe that the Flyers would be a tough team to beat. Mason started to resemble the form that won him the Calder Trophy in 2009 as the league's rookie of the year and not only that, he had played with an abundance of confidence in the regular season.
Mason was one of the reasons why the Flyers were able to get one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division this season. In 61 games, Mason went 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, Mason has yet to start a playoff game against the New York Rangers in their first round series due to an upper body injury he sustained in his team's last game of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the exception of playing in seven minutes of mop-up duty in his club's 4-1 loss to the Blueshirts, Mason has not seen a lot of action and has yet to have the opportunity to go the distance between the pipes for his team this postseason.
That should all change on Friday night in Game 4 as hockey scribe Dave Isaac of the Courier Post reported that the Flyers' 25-year-old masked man should get the start at home on Friday night. There are many reasons why this will be a good thing for the Flyers.
For starters, Mason is a lot more athletic than back-up goaltender Ray Emery is. Ray Emery may be good at stopping a shot head on but when it comes to going post-to-post and side-to-side, he is slowed due to the various surgeries he has undergone over the course of his career.
When Mason is on his game, he is one of the most athletic goaltenders in the league. He can be quick going from post-to-post and his ability to push from one side to the other will come in handy in preventing the Blueshirts from getting goals at the side of the net, something they have done already several times in the first three games.
Secondly, Flyers' pundits and fans alike know that Mason still needs to prove himself in the playoffs. In his only playoff experience with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009, he struggled between the pipes as his club was swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
With that in mind, Mason will more than likely play with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder and use it to show both his team, their fans, and the media that he can be a playoff goaltender. Things have changed a lot for Mason since his days in Columbus and a strong showing in the rest of the series should silence his critics.
Lastly, it is clear that Mason is one of his team's best players. In the playoffs, it is all about a team's top players stepping up and doing what they are supposed to do to help their club win.
Mason is more than likely jumping at the bit to do that for the Flyers. This is a team that showed a lot of faith in him when they signed him to a three-year contract extension worth $12.3 million back in January and Mason will do all that he can to reward them with steady play between the pipes to not only his team back in the series, but to may be knock off the Blueshirts and advance to the second round.
It is clear that the Flyers need consistent goaltending to get back into this series and with Mason between the pipes, they should get that and more.