Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Mike Richards trying to make the best of being sent to the AHL

    Jan 31, 2015, 5:53 PM EST

    Mike Richards Getty Images

    Was put on waivers, cleared, and sent to the minors this week.

  2. Red Wings’ youth shines vs. Isles for ninth win in 11th games

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:47 PM EST

    Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Hickey, Matt Martin, Justin Abdelkader AP

    Detroit is forcing itself into the Stanley Cup conversation.

  3. Price leads Habs past Caps with second straight shutout

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:08 PM EST

    Jay Beagle, Carey Price, Andrei Markov AP

    Montreal has put pressure on Tampa Bay in the battle for the Eastern Conference lead.

  4. Horton shows some improvement, future remains cloudy

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:48 PM EST

    Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

    He has a degenerative back injury that might lead to career-ending surgery.

  5. Goalie nods: Smith gets shot at revenge vs. Senators

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:56 PM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Arizona Coyotes Getty Images

    He gave up five goals against them on Jan. 10.

  6. This will be a milestone night for several Flyers

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:57 PM EST

    Jakub Voracek Getty Images

    Meanwhile Philadelphia will try to win its fourth straight game.

  7. Red Wings, Islanders face off in unlikely battle for the East

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:57 AM EST

    Jaroslav Halak, Pavel Datsyuk AP

    They’ve surpassed the early season expectations.

  8. Bettman willing to consider making cap data public

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:11 AM EST

    Gary Bettman AP

    But he seems very reluctant on the matter.

  9. Kane, Sharp lead Blackhawks over Ducks

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:00 AM EST

    Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane

    Anaheim has now lost two straight in regulation for the first time since November.

  10. Miller sends ex-Buffalo mates to 14th straight loss

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:15 AM EST

    Carolina Hurricanes v Vancouver Canucks Getty Images

    Sabres conclude January with an 0-12-0 record.

  11. Video: Jarome Iginla records his 1,200th NHL point

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:35 PM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche

    He’s now tied with Dino Ciccarelli on the all-time points list.

  12. Video: Despres’ OT winner lifts the Pens over the Devils

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Simon Despres Getty Images

    Kris Letang has assisted on Pittsburgh’s last seven goals.

  13. Blackhawks plan on keeping Darling in the mix

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils Getty Images

    He’s a restricted free agent after this season.

  14. Leafs won’t turn to prospect William Nylander for help

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    William Nylander William Nylander

    The 18-year-old is playing in his 3rd career AHL game tonight.

  15. Canes’ Khudobin yanked after allowing 2 goals on 3 shots

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Carolina Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin (31) takes a break during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) AP

    Was 6-0-0 in his previous seven appearances entering tonight.

Featured video

Kings come back in third to top Blackhawks
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. E. Malkin (3636)
  2. S. Crosby (3032)
  3. T. Hall (2864)
  4. P. Rinne (2618)
  5. M. Brodeur (2546)
  1. C. Price (2500)
  2. K. Letang (2476)
  3. T. Johnson (2457)
  4. M. Richards (2277)
  5. P. Hornqvist (2262)