Better With Popcorn

Mason Shining Despite Season's Dim Start

Amidst the worst start to a season in Flyers franchise history (1-7-0), silver linings have been hard to come by, but one unexpected player has silenced critics early in the young season.
 
Coming into the season, the Flyers planned to split the goaltending duties between Steve Mason, who the Flyers traded for back on April 3, and offseason acquisition Ray Emery. 
 
While Emery struggled in the two games he started against Montreal and Detroit, Mason has done the opposite and shown that he is capable of winning the full time starting job.
 
Despite Mason’s 1-5 record, he has been superb in net throughout the first three weeks of the season sporting a 2.37 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Mason’s numbers have been good enough to put him ahead of a talented list of goaltenders that includes Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford, and last season’s Vezina trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovksy.
 
Dating back to last season, Mason has a 2.13 GAA and a .935 save percentage in 13 games played as a member of the Flyers.
 
Playing behind a team that is struggling as much as the Flyers are right now is not an easy task for a goaltender. The Flyers are second to last in two important offensive categories: goals per game with 1.38 and total goals overall with 11.
 
“He is probably a little bit frustrated with that because he is playing well and he is making key saves at key times for us and you just like to help him out one night and give him some goal support and we haven’t done that yet,” Brayden Schenn said when asked about Mason’s play after the 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
 
In that game, Mason stopped the first 21 shots he faced from the talented Penguins squad, even while playing down a man three separate times in the first period alone. Mason stopped 8 total shots in the game while the Flyers were on the penalty kill and was one of the main reasons they were able to shutdown the third best power play unit in the league.
 
The Flyers are the most penalized team in the league and have spent more time on the penalty kill than any other team. Even so, Mason has only surrendered two goals on 28 total shots, good enough for a .929 power play save percentage.
 
Mason is among the top 15 in the league in shots against for goaltenders. Though facing more shots than majority of other NHL goalies, Mason is also among the top 15 in saves made, showing that he’s able to keep up with the heavy workload.
 
The lack of goal support for Mason mirrors another Philadelphia sports team, the Phillies, who faced the same issue this past season when Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels finished 6th and 9th respectively in lowest run support in games they started. The results for Mason have been much of the same; great play but no wins to show for it.
 
“Steve [Mason] has been sharp this season. He gives us a chance to win every night,” said Max Talbot. “Ninety percent of the games are one-goal games, so he has been keeping us in the game every night.”
 
Though the results are not there in terms of wins just yet, Mason is taking it in stride and making the most of the situation and continues to excel in net for the Flyers as the season wears on.
 
“I’m just trying to make the saves I need to make and just be patient and eventually it will come,” he said.
 
Many fans came into this season with low expectations for Mason and what he could bring to the team but so far, Mason has made a believer out of even some of the toughest critics.
 
Only time will tell if he can keep this up moving forward as the games start to pile up, but one thing is for certain and that is Mason has been the Flyers best player through the first few weeks of the season.
 

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Daniel Spevak
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Flyrfn144; @TCLFlyers