Tempting as it might be to peek at the standings following
their 4-2 win over Rangers on Tuesday, the reality is the Flyers still have a
lot of ground to make up and precious little time left to do it. Turns out knocking
off the eighth seed with a week and a half to go will only get you so far.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t any positives to take away
from the end result.
New York had come out on top in 10 of the previous 11
meetings, so that needed to be broken up of course. If nothing else the Flyers may
have helped cost the Rags their playoff spot, but that much remains to be seen.
The continued growth of several young players is a good sign
for the future as well. Phantoms call-ups Erik Gustafsson (goals in consecutive
games), Oliver Lauridsen (career-high 19:59 of ice time), and Brandon Manning
(first NHL point) all stepped up for a skeleton-crew defense, while Sean
Couturier’s 22 minutes (most among Flyers forwards) was some of the best all-around
hockey the sophomore has played all season.
Then there is Steve Mason. Already doing his very best to
create a goalie controversy – first with his mere existence, then later by
proclaiming he intends to overtake Ilya Bryzgalov on the depth chart –
Mason hasn’t done anything between the pipes to silence the gossip.
Mason’s 38 saves were a season-high for a Flyers netminder,
eight of those coming against the New York power play, as he was finally able to notch his first win in Orange & Black. You might even go so far as to say he
stole one in his Wells Fargo Center debut, coming up with a number of highlight-reel
stops in what was a tight contest throughout.
In four appearances for the Flyers, Mason is posting a .941
save percentage and 1.82 goals against average. As solid as he’s looked though,
none of the previous three outings announced his arrival as loudly or with as
much force as this.
To be fair, Bryzgalov has responded to the possibility of a
competition. In his two games since Mason received his first start, Bryz picked up
the W in Montreal on Monday, and only surrendered a pair of breakaway goals in
a 2-1 loss to Ottawa over the weekend – hardly a final that could be blamed on the goaltender.
Actually, it’s almost funny. As the Flyers’ blue-line depth
becomes more and more depleted due to injury – Bruno Gervais was the latest lost
for the season, while Kent Huskins is among the wounded with a concussion as well
– defensive breakdowns and crippling turnovers are suddenly, rather noticeably reduced.
Not to take anything away from Mason, but I’m not sure how many times we’ve
seen him truly hung out to dry yet.
Regardless, we can’t discount what Mason has done so far,
either. It’s a small sample size, and thus it doesn’t necessarily equate to a
sign of things to come for the 24 year old. The idea that the Flyers will be in
a position to completely evaluate their backup goaltender after having him in house for
three weeks is crazy.
This much can probably be said safely however: Bryzgalov, or
whoever the other goalie happens to be next season, will have a legit
competition on their hands if Mason continues to have anything to say about it.
So far it’s looking like he just might.
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