Better With Popcorn

2014-15 Flyers Preview: Goalies

The starter

Steve Mason - 61 games, 60 starts, 33-18-7, .917 save percentage, 2.50 GAA.

The backup

Ray Emery - 28 games, 21 starts, 9-12-2, .903 save percentage, 2.96 GAA.

Mason looks to repeat 2013-14 success

For the first time in what felt like forever, the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to finally find the answer in net last season, and perhaps, a franchise goaltender for the next few years.

Even with a questionable defensive corps and a lot of doubt coming into the season, the Flyers stabilized their play in net and quieted some of their demons, at least for now. Goaltender Steve Mason, looking to get his career back on track with new opportunities in Philly, put up his best numbers since 2008-09 when he won the Calder trophy, awarded to the league's best rookie, with Columbus.

Mason went 33-18-7 with four shutouts, a .917 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average. His 33 wins ranked seventh in the NHL and it was the best season for a Flyers goalie since the 2007-08 season when Martin Biron went 30-20-9 with a .918 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average.

Despite posting average numbers in both December and January, Mason used a very strong October-through-November and February-through-April to bookend his season and show the Flyers faithful just what he is capable of. Though a concussion caused him to miss the first two-and-a-half games against the New York Rangers in the playoffs, Mason carried his strong performance, where he posted a .939 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average.

The dominating performance against the division rival Rangers won a lot of fans over and was a huge moment in establishing his importance to the Flyers moving forward. Even so, huge doubts still loom heading into this season.

The biggest question for the Flyers in net this season isn’t if Mason is capable of playing well but can he repeat his success from last year? Looking back on his career up to this point, there’s no question that the concerns are warranted.

After his Calder trophy winning season where he posted a .916 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average, Mason wouldn’t even get close to those numbers again in a Blue Jackets uniform. In the three and a half seasons following, his highest save percentage was only .901 and he would fail to reach .900 twice before being shipped off to Philadelphia in 2012. 

It also doesn’t help matters that the Flyers blue line is depleted and a huge question mark entering the season. With Kimmo Timonen likely to miss the entire season due to blood clots and the team having to rely on slow defensemen like Nicklas Grossmann, there’s little doubt that Mason will see a lot of work and this could hinder any chance he has at posting repeat numbers.

It still remains to be seen whether or not the Flyers can get the same type of production from Mason this year. One thing that is certain, however, is that if the Flyers have to rely on backup Ray Emery more than they initially plan, it could be a long season.

The general consensus among a lot of fans was that if Mason had started games one through three against the Rangers, the Flyers would have advanced to the semifinals. Though Emery provided solid relief in the playoffs and at points throughout last season, it’s obvious that he just does not have the health or skill to start full-time for an NHL team at this point, especially at 32.

Mason provides the Flyers with quicker reaction time, more flexibility and more talent overall. The only question now is how long will that last?

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Daniel Spevak
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Flyrfn144@TCLFlyers