One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…
Heading into the Flyers-Rangers series, most pundits gave Henrik Lundqvist the edge in goal over Steve Mason.
Assuming Mason would be in goal, mind you.
That’s the big issue facing the Flyers right now, as Mason barely practiced on Tuesday amid reports he’s still feeling the effects of a collision during Saturday’s game against the Pens — putting his availability for Thursday’s series-opening game at MSG into question.
“I feel better each day and we’ll see how I feel [Wednesday],” Mason said after following Tuesday’s skate, via the Flyers public relations department.
He didn’t meet with reporters.
The injury situation added a deeper layer to the goaltending narrative. Yes, Mason had a very solid regular season and yes, he tied his career high with 33 wins and yes, he recorded a career-best .917 save percentage — he was quite good. But the last time he was also “quite good” was in 2008-09, the year he set all those personal bests and, not coincidentally, made his first and only playoff appearance.
Problem was, that ’09 postseason wasn’t kind for Mason or his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mason finished the series with an ugly .878 save percentage and 4.27 goals against average as the Jackets were swept by Detroit. It marked the beginning of Mason’s downward spiral in Columbus, one that finally ended upon being acquired by Philadelphia at last year’s deadline.
Despite his turnaround with the Flyers, some were still skeptical of his ability to carry the load — and that was before the injury issue.
Speaking of that injury, we’re not entirely sure what to make of it, but it’s worth noting Mason’s suffered two previous head injuries in the last three years. In 2011, he took a puck to the head in practice and proceeded to miss three games; a year later, the same sort of incident sidelined Mason for three more games late in the season.
Which brings us to Ray Emery.
The 31-year-old journeyman was a clear-cut No. 2 in Philly this year, making 28 appearances to Mason’s 61. Yet there’s something to be said for how much Emery played and the role he filled — heck, Wayne Simmonds believes the beating Emery put on Washington’s Braden Holtby back in November helped turn Philly’s season around.
All told, Emery finished with pedestrian numbers (9-12-2, 2.96 GAA, .903 save percentage), but does boast a pretty extensive postseason resume. In 2007 he backstopped Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Final and in 2011, was Anaheim’s No. 1 in a six-game opening-round loss to Nashville. Last season he won a Cup with Chicago, but failed to make a single postseason appearance.
So, back to the original pressing question — will the Flyers get the goaltending? Let’s put it this way. Given they only managed to score six goals on Lundqvist all season, they’re going to need it. If they do get it, it’ll probably have to come from Mason and for that to happen, Mason’s going to have to be healthy.
That’s a lot of convoluted ifs, but hey…it’s goaltending in Philly. Nothing’s ever simple or easy.
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