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Mason's play so far should at least grab the attention of Team Canada for Olympic consideration

Wednesday, 11.20.2013 / 5:43 PM ET / News
By Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter
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VOORHEES, N.J. – When the Flyers traded for Steve Mason at the trade deadline last April, the jokes were bountiful.

Here they were getting the guy who was replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus. The Flyers were basically getting the Blue Jackets scraps, while Columbus was enjoying the Vezina-winning season of the former Flyers goalie.

And although they technically weren’t traded for one another, many viewed it as a swap of goaltenders that would haunt the Flyers for many years to come.

Now, a mere seven months later, all the laughing has been silenced.

The criticisms have been tucked away and those same documentarians who were quick to prejudge Mason are now championing his performance on a nightly basis.

Funny how things change, eh?

Through his first 15 starts, Mason has a 2.12 goals against average and a .932 save percentage, nearly identical numbers to what Bobrovsky posted in 37 starts (2.00, .932) to win the Vezina a season ago.

The question is, how did he get here? How did Mason become a go-to goalie so quickly for the Flyers when earlier this year he was an afterthought somewhere else?

The answer is threefold.

Steve Mason has been so good that any perceived goaltending controversy with Ray Emery (right) never materialized.

Confidence. Conditioning. Coaching.

Let’s take them in reverse order, shall we?

Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese had always admired Mason’s game. From the time Mason burst on the scene as the winner of the Calder Trophy and Vezina runner-up as a rookie in the 2008-09 season up until the time the Flyers traded Michael Leighton and a 2015 third round pick for him.

Sure there were some forgettable seasons mixed in there, but Mason always had the talent. As an experienced goalie coach, Reese could see it. It was still there, even though he was struggling.

And while there were a few minor adjustments that Reese felt could help, the big thing was getting Mason into shape.

Mason’s weight fluctuated a bit while he was in Columbus, and that’s what made him a hair slower in net.

When he got to Philadelphia, it was an opportunity to recommit himself to his craft physically and it has paid off.

Now, Mason is stronger in the net. He is quicker laterally. He gets into the proper position faster. His reflexes are sharp and his numbers are proving it – and with the good numbers comes confidence in oneself.

Sure, it’s only one quarter of one season, so once again, when talking about Mason’s repeatedly solid performances, it must come with the qualifier that it’s a small sample size – and it is.

But when does the small sample become large enough for others to truly take notice?

Probably not until sometime after the New Year – perhaps the Olympic Break.

After all, by that point the season will be 59 games old and Mason will have started somewhere between 40 and 45 games.

If his numbers are still as good – or better – than they are right now, then it’s worth removing the “temporarily hot” label from Mason.

And at that point, maybe, the Flyers consider trying to lock him up on a multi-year deal rather than risk losing him to a lot more in free agency at season’s end.

Because Mason is on a one-year deal, the Flyers are not allowed to negotiate a new deal with him until January 1 anyway per rules in the collective bargaining agreement. So, for their sake, it’s good and it allows even more evaluation time to determine if they want to lock him up long-term.

Considering he has now appeared in 22 games for the Flyers since that trade in April and hasn’t given up more than three goals in any one of them, it’s starting to look like they’re going to want to keep him beyond this season.

Because aside from his performance on the ice, Mason has also helped bonding in the locker room. After there was so much fuss and maybe even some discord with goalies past, this current Flyers squad embraces Mason as one of their own.

“You can always tell the kind of impact a goalie has on a locker room when you hear the other players talking about him positively,” General Manager Paul Holmgren said. “Our guys have been saying good things about him all season.”

And why not? He is easily the first quarter MVP. Without Steve Mason, there is no turnaround. There is no getting back to within a game of a playoff spot. There is no optimism moving forward.

And despite all that, despite his fine play and his role in keeping the Flyers relevant this season, he’s not capturing

Steve Mason played on Team Canada in the2008  World Junior Championships where he was MVP and Top Goaltender leading Canada to their fourth straight gold medal.

the eye of the national media.

He’s not a darling because his won/loss record isn’t great. He’s not a household name yet because the Flyers got off to a slow start.

And the Flyers don’t mind that being the case. As a matter of fact, they feel like the less people outside of Philadelphia know about Mason’s game right now, the better.

But that not be the best thing for Mason and his international aspirations.

Mason is definitely not getting a lot of love as a possibility to be one of the Olympic goaltenders for Team Canada.

Maybe it’s because of statistical reputation. Maybe it’s because Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman has his heart set on the guys who got him the Gold medal four years ago in Vancouver coming back again.

And who’s to say Yzerman isn’t right?

But, if you go by what he said previously – that how guys are playing in the season would contribute highly to the decision-making process, then Mason has to be considered for a spot at the very least.

Look at goals against – He ranks sixth among the Canadian goalies, and only mere percentage points out of third.

In save percentage, which is a far greater measure of the goalie’s individual performance, since GAA can often be contributed to team defense as well, Mason ranks fourth among Canadian goalies, but ahead of all three guys who were on the Olympic Team in 2010.

The Olympic teams don’t have to be declared until December 31, so there is still time yet for Mason to stand out even more, or to regress back closer to the norm. But maybe someone needs to point out to Canada that one of their best goalies is in Philadelphia, as strange as that might sound, and he deserves some more publicity than he’s gotten so far.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers




1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


C. Giroux 50 16 28 -4 44
J. Voracek 50 8 34 1 42
W. Simmonds 50 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 48 14 15 -1 29
S. Gostisbehere 32 9 17 4 26
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 49 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 50 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 50 6 6 2 12
M. Del Zotto 48 3 9 -9 12
S. Mason 12 12 7 .916 2.68
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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