Steve Mason left the Philadelphia Flyers for a personal reason after just two games into the season. He had to go attend to a very serious personal matter and after the worst performance of his career, Mason realized he needed to step away. In the two games that Mason has been away, backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth stole the show.
What’s Happened to Neuvirth Without Mason?
Neuvirth posted two shutouts in a row against the Florida Panthers at the Flyers home opener and a shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks. But he was not perfect as Neuvirth did allow three goals in relief of Mason against the Panthers in their first matchup.
Mason has not publicly stated what the family emergency was, and it seems that he intends to keep quiet on the subject.
I didn’t handle Saturday very well, didn’t play well. I don’t want to get into details on it, but I definitely didn’t handle myself well enough to play well for the team.
Many people want to look at professional athletes as robots. They’re expected to produce statistics, make great plays and not have any human characteristics that the public knows about. However, the mental aspect of goaltender is just as important as their statistics. One minute a goalie can be making saves that many think is impossible and the next he could let in four goals in a row. It’s the mental consistency that is so crucial for goaltenders to be successful and Mason proved that during the Flyers 7-1 loss to the Panthers.
So now what do the Flyers do when Mason returns to the team? He’s already began practicing again, it’s just a matter of time before he is back in the lineup.
Frankly, the Flyers should be Mason’s team. Last season he almost willed the team into the playoffs. He posted a ridiculous even strength save percentage of 94.37%. That mark placed him third in the league and made many realize that he might be an elite goaltender after all.
Both Mason and Neuvirth are 27-years old and in the prime of their respective careers. However, look at the track record of Mason versus Neuvirth.
While Mason has been the Flyers starter since the 2013-14 season, he’s only every played on the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Flyers. Neuvirth on the other hand has bounced around from team to team and has spent time with the Washington Capitals, the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders and now the Flyers. He’s failed to make a significant impact on any of those teams and that’s why he was signed in free agency.
Mason has been around the block, he’s shown what he can do between the pipes and he has a proven track record. The fact that a backup goaltender has played very well in a few games is not enough to justify giving the starting position to him.
It might take Mason a few games to regain his confidence and mental consistency, but he should be the starter again. Mason gives the Flyers the best chance to win and if they want any chance of making the playoffs, he is their best option.
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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