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Under Pressure: Steve Mason

Aug 20, 2014, 1:55 PM EST

stevemasongetty Getty Images

The 2013-14 campaign was very, very good to Steve Mason.

Aside from getting his career as a bonafide No. 1 netminder back on track, the performance also netted him a handsome three-year, $12.3 million deal — one that pays $4.1M annually — and cemented him as Philly’s go-to guy for the foreseeable future.

“If you look at this season in a nutshell, he was good when the team was real bad early in the year,” then-Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said of the deal. “And the last little while, as the team’s gotten better, I think Steve has played up and down a little bit. We expect him to get better over the next three-plus years with the team and grow with the team.

“He’s a good goalie, and we believe he’s going to get better. That’s why we did what we did.”

That last part is key. The Flyers expect Mason to get better over the life of his contract and next year, the first of the extension, he’ll probably need to be.

Defensively, Philly has some red flags. The club finished 20th in the NHL in goals allowed (2.77 GAA), led the league in penalty minutes and was shorthanded the second-most times (316), second only to Ottawa. While the Flyers’ solid penalty kill bailed them out routinely — the PK finished seventh in the NHL last year, at 84.8 percent — a couple of key performers from the unit are now out of action: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) and Adam Hall (signed in Switzerland), who finished third and fourth on the team in total shorthanded TOI last season.

Timonen’s unavailability also accentuates Philly’s issues on D.

There are two significant problems: 1) the group doesn’t feature a clear-cut No. 1, “stud” that most elite teams tend to employ, and 2) it doesn’t have a ton of depth. Prior to signing Michael Del Zotto, Philly was looking at a top-six comprised of Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann and Nick Schultz. Del Zotto helps the depth out a bit, and the Flyers will pray their health on the back end mirrors last year’s (it doesn’t garner a lot of attention, but Philly’s blueline went almost injury-free last season. Streit, Coburn, Schenn, Timonen and Grossman combined to miss just 12 games.)

Hextall is trying to look at the situation optimistically as well.

“I like our defense,” he said, per NJ.com. “I’ve said it time and time again. We maybe don’t have that top guy, that No. 1 guy, but probably 20 teams in the league say the same thing. We’re going to go with the guys we’ve got.”

All of this, of course, circles back to Mason. As the last line of defense, he fared well last year and shone in his first playoff action in five years, posting a .939 save percentage over the final five games of Philly’s opening-round loss to the Rangers. But now, he’ll need to show year-to-year consistency — something that was an issue in Columbus — and carry the weight of expectation. When he arrived in Philly, Mason was a reclamation project playing on a cheap deal. Now, he’s one of the NHL’s 20 highest-paid goalies and will be looked upon to backstop the Flyers into a second straight postseason.

The last time Mason faced similar expectations was as a Blue Jacket, following a rookie year in which he won the Calder and finished second in Vezina voting. Things went south after that, and the Flyers hope they’re not in line for a repeat performance.

  1. phillyphanatic77 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    When you consider the Flyers defensive stats it should be extremely impressive that Mason managed to post a .917sv%. And then he almost single handedly defeated a Rangers team that was overmatching the Flyers in the playoffs. He clearly outplayed Lundqvist in the series and has the physical attributes to get better. I expect another productive campaign, even without Timonen.

    • blomfeld - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      Seriously … what a complete effing joke ! :)

  2. ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    it could have been Streit as the under pressure feature too with Timonen now out. he’s gonna be looked on to step up huge, especially on the PP, and now that the philly fans/media know him better, they won’t be holding back this year when he plays like he did at times last year. he could be in for some serious Philly-athlete treatment this year.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:21 AM

      All he has to do is produce like last season (10 goals 44pts) and there will be no reason to rag on him. I think he was easily the teams best blueliner a year ago and that was mostly as the #2PP QB. Now he’s the top guy and he’s shown no signs of slowing (offensively). Personally I believe he’ll produce something like 12 goals+ 45-50pts with adequate defensive play… and that’s more than enough.

      I don’t think Mason was the best choice either though… I’d have gone with someone like Lecavalier or Coburn. Both those players need to step up big time if the Flyers want to be more than a borderline playoff team.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:28 AM

        “there will be no reason to rag on him.”

        that’s never stopped Philly fans/media before…

        it’s definitely somebody on the defense, maybe just the defense as a whole.

  3. bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    This guy is not the answer. Look for him to come down to Earth this season. The woes in goal will continue…

    • mcphillthy - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      Says nobody of relevance

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:33 AM

      Wrong, since putting on a Flyers uniform there has been zero indication that Mason’s issues of old will resurface. He’s happy again (a huge factor), confident, and his superb ability to handle the puck makes him the perfect fit for this club. He’s got ideal size, impressive athleticism, and has shown he can carry the Flyers. Watch the final four games of the Rangers series again and you’ll see the kind of goalie this kid can be. Beyond that, his age makes him the perfect fit to grow along with the young core.

      I can’t remember a time I’ve entered a season this confident in the Flyers #1 goalie.

  4. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    Maybe the Flyers have possibly found a number one goalie…something they’ve been looking for over the past 10 plus years. If he can keep up his play last year while playing with an average D then they should one of the top three teams in the Metro behind the Pens and…. ?

  5. milkmemalkin - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Last time he had a good year, he followed it up with a couple of bad years. Flyers fan should temper their expectations.

    • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      “Flyers fan should temper their expectations.”

      i’m sorry. after 40 years, you think we don’t consistently “temper our expectations?” please. gtfo of here with your sh**ty advice, troll.

      • hotlanta57 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        ibieniid you seem very sensitive. I’m sorry if your feelings got hurt

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        hotlanta, meet milkmemalkin the troll. milkmemalkin the troll, meet hotlanta. I wasn’t reacting to his stupid comment that did nothing more than paraphrasing the last paragraph of the article that he didn’t read. he never stops talking, yet he has never said anything.

      • hotlanta57 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        You know he is a troll yet he still managed to strike a nerve. All I’m saying is that you have a a lot of feelings. Also thanks for the introduction

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        no i’m telling him to gtfo. it’s Flyers day, not strange Penguin-fetish day (milkmemalkin)

      • hotlanta57 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        Telling someone to “gtfo” online often makes trolls goes away.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        it’s like how in Ernest Scared Stupid, milk made the trolls die. he clearly has an immunity to milk, so i went with gtfo. he hasn’t commented again, so it may have worked. don’t knock it til you try it.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        and yes, I did just pull an Ernest reference.

    • shaundre93 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      He was also way too young to be an NHL starting goalie and played behind a TURRIBLE *Barkley voice* cbj D. He’s big, has decent technique and moves well. He’s a legit #1

      • milkmemalkin - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        That would make sense but in CBJ he got worse as he got older. I’m not saying he’s going to suck for sure but Flyers fans are talking about him like he is going to the Vezina.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:45 AM

        Malkinmilker, I’d be more worried about your own starting goaltender. I’d take Mason over Fleury all day, everyday. The Blue Jackets TEAM got worse as Mase got older. I can’t say he played well there but he’s 26 now (time when goalies come into their own), confident (something he wasn’t with the Jackets), and finally understands how to use his god given talents effectively and consistently. He’ll be just fine.

  6. shaundre93 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I might be alone in this, but I don’t hate their D. They have a nice blend of puck movers and stay at home guys.

    Streit – Coburn
    MacD – Schenn
    DelZ – Grossman
    Ghost – Schultz

    Its going to take every one of them playing to the best of their abilities, but I don’t think its unreasonable to think that this blue line could be at worst adequate. Especially if the fwds play solid team D. And how old is Mason? 26? He’s just reaching his prime years, if he can finally get some confidence/ stability you might start to see the goalie cbj thought they had years ago. A lot of “ifs” on the back end in Philly, but if things go there way I think this is a cup caliber team.

    • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      phtjoey. here’s your cue. bash this guy for thinking something other than your great wisdom indicates.

  7. philiver - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Nick Schultz, not Jeff Schultz.

  8. flyboystransport - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    If the pens don’t cheap shot mason the flyers definitely get out of the first round. Anxious to see if he repeats what he did last season. I don’t think last season was a fluke because of how he played the end of the prior season

    • hockey412 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      If the Pens didn’t cheap shot Mason, Kreider or Nash would have.

  9. phtjoey - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    “Defensively, Philly has some red flags. ” that’s right, Mike. The pressure shouldn’t be on the goalie. If they had a solid d, then yeah, by all means the goalie could be the one under pressure.

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