Yesterday, the Philadelphia Flyers announced a big move, they just recalled AHL All-Star goaltender Anthony Stolarz from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. This move was in response to the confirmed injury diagnosis to Michal Neuvirth. Starting goaltender Steve Mason has not had his best season, but the fate of the Flyers season now rests in his hands.
Neuvirth was hurt during practice and has been seen walking with a limp. Although no official injury has been announced, it’s likely that Neuvirth hurt his groin or one of his legs.
Steve Mason has been playing relatively well for the Flyers, but there’s a consensus in Philadelphia that he is not fully healthy. He just recently returned from his own “lower-body” injury and he has not been moving as swiftly.
Steve Mason Must Play His Best For Flyers
Last night was the first of six games within the next 10 days. The Flyers travel to Nashville, host the Rangers, travel to Washington and host Anaheim and Buffalo within the next week. Not only is Mason expected to start all of these games, he’s excited to.
It’s not like I’ve been overtaxed this year, so I should have plenty of energy to play as many as games they need me to. Like I said yesterday, this is the stretch of our season that will make or break us, and I want to be a big part of it. We need to come out with a good start to this month of the season.
Well a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadians sure was a good start to the month, but their trying stretch is just beginning. By the numbers, Mason has a record of 11-12-0 with a 2.70 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Both statistics are worse than last season when he posted a .928 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA. And it’s no coincidence that the combination of injuries and lack of playing time have attributed to Mason’s less than stellar numbers.
Goaltenders, the really good ones, love to play and want to play a ton. They develop a rhythm when they’re in the lineup every night and Mason has not had that opportunity this season. This is due to the emergence of Neuvirth, and while it’s a positive for the Flyers organization to have two good goaltenders, I personally think it’s hurt Mason’s play.
At even strength, Mason is still one of the best goalies in the league with a .9387 save percentage, which places him 12th in the league, of goaltenders who have played over 400 minutes. That number places him ahead of Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Corey Crawford, Ben Bishop and even Jonathan Quick.
However, Mason has struggled with his play on special teams. He has a mere .8571 save percentage while on the power play, which is the 8th lowest of goalies who have played over 100 minutes with a man advantage. And his penalty killing has been even worse, Steve Mason is dead last with a .7951 save percentage.
Prior to this season, many, including myself, attributed Mason’s struggles on special teams to the poor play of his teammates in front of him. However, this is not the case this year as Neuvirth has the 6th highest save percentage on the penalty kill with a .9138.
In every quantifiable metric, Mason has regressed from his stellar season last year. The Flyers need him, and they need him now with Neuvirth sidelined during a crucial time of their season. Mason has not been focused on his recent injury and it looking forward to playing more hockey.
I’m not overly concerned about it. We’ve done a good job managing it and it was fortunate the break happened when it happened and gave me a little bit of time. I’m just trying to prepare to play a lot of hockey.
Hopefully as Mason plays more in the upcoming nine days, his numbers will improve because without strong play, it’s hard to imagine the Flyers as anything but sellers on the trade deadline that’s rapidly approaching.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers