The news that Steve Mason is out for Game 1 of the Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round series versus the New York Rangers hurts. The possibility he could miss even more time with an “upper-body injury” stemming from a controversial collision against the loathsome Pittsburgh Penguins would be a huge blow to say the least.
Yet the Flyers might have bigger problems on their hands than who’s in goal, which would be the seasoned and competent Ray Emery.
They must solve the great Henrik Lundqvist in the opposing crease, who’s built a 27-13-3 lifetime record against Philadelphia. They must rediscover how to win at Madison Square Garden, a feat that has not been accomplished since Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger donned orange and black.
Whether it’s Mason or Emery or even Cal Heeter between the pipes, netminder is only one part of the equation. The Flyers have to learn, as a team, how to beat Lundqvist, how to beat the Rangers over the course of the next two weeks.
Or they’re done either way.
Yes, there is a clear drop-off from Mason, who’s played some of his best hockey since arriving in Philadelphia at the 2012-13 trade deadline, to Emery, 31 years old and living without 13 centimeters of his leg bone. No one would argue Razor gives the club its best shot.
Emery is certainly capable of holding down the fort for a game or two though, assuming that’s all Mason misses. He'll reportedly join the team in New York on Friday. But that’s still putting the cart before the horse.
You could claim the losing streak at MSG is irrelevant. One victory—preferably Game 1 on Thursday—and the building’s entire mystique, the apparent enchantment it has over this group of Flyers goes up in smoke just like that. Of course, a loss could do the opposite for confidence levels, but they have to win a game on Rangers ice eventually, right?
Unfortunately, Lundqvist’s prowess over the Flyers is all too tangible. They got to him once this season, proving it can be done in a 4-2 win on March 1. The other two encounters with King Henrik were far less fruitful, as the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner stopped a combined 67 shots and allowed just two goals in 4-1 and 3-1 New York victories.
Worry about who’s in net for the Flyers, I do not. For once, there's actually some depth and stability back there.
The opposing team's goaltender is the one you want to worry about. Can the Flyers really best Lundqvist over seven games?