The Philadelphia Flyers came into the season as a sleeper team. Very few expected them to be competitive, let alone potentially pushing for a playoff spot. But through seven games, the Flyers have a record of 4-2-1 and are fourth in the Metropolitan Division. They’re ahead of division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, both of which were considered to be playoff contenders.
A big reason for their strong record has been their surprisingly solid goaltending. We’ve known that Steve Mason proved himself last season as an elite goaltender, but he has struggled mightily to start this season. He did miss time due to a personal matter and since returning, Mason has looked much better.
Mason Should Capitalize on Neuvirth’s Absence
Since returning from his distracting personal issue, Mason has stopped all but six goals in three games, which nets a .932 save percentage. This has been very crucial for Mason, since during his absence backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth played excellently. He played so well, that some even thought that Neuvirth would have a shot to keep the starting position upon Mason’s return.
However, on Saturday, Neuvirth was placed on injured reserve and will have to at least miss their game Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. This is Mason’s perfect opportunity to reinforce why he should remain the starting goaltender.
The Flyers’ general manager Rox Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol have proven something this season. They’re going to make moves and lineup decisions based upon what is best for the team’s chance to win, and not based on player salaries.
It might be crazy to think that Mason could lose his starting job to a career backup goaltender who has yet to stick with one NHL team, but the Flyers have shown it isn’t.
Mason has bounced back very well from whatever off-ice issue he had and he needs to continue. His return has included a solid victory over the Dallas Stars and a dominant outdueling of New York Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Here’s what Mason had to say after beating “The King.”
It’s a great measuring stick. It’s a huge extra point we were able to gain and keep piling up the wins. We need to have a good stretch here with a tough road trip coming up.
You can tell a lot about the composition of the current Flyers team in Mason’s quote. They’re more concerned about the team winning games than personal accomplishments. Some expensive veterans have yet to even see the ice, but yet there has been very little complaints.
Mason is going to continue to have a great season and he will have to do it without much defensive help in front of him. Neuvirth’s injury has given Mason an opportunity and you better believe that he will take full advantage of it.
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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