SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Steve Mason follows some goalies pretty closely, especially guys he has a history against.
Like Antii Niemi.
Mason is 2-3-0 in five career head-to-head starts against Niemi as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, with a 3.45 goals-against average when Mason played with Columbus.
Tonight at SAP Center, Mason will make his first Flyers start against Niemi and try to do something no Flyer goalie has done since Nov. 5, 1999: Win a game in San Jose.
“We’ve broken a couple of other streaks this year, so why not another one, right?” Mason said.
Niemi is tied for second in the NHL with 28 wins.
“You are always looking for way to compare yourself against the best goalies in the league,” Mason said. “He’s been doing it for the last four years consistently. When you are looking for way to get better, you try to take bits and pieces [from others].
“There’s no denying what he’s accomplished in his career in leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup a few years ago. When he signed [with San Jose], he’s just been a stable force back there. Every year, you know what you’re going to get from him. For myself, it’s something I strive for as I get older.
“I used to follow guys a lot when I was [a kid]. I did it religiously. I was 9, 10, 11 [years old], I could tell you everything about a goaltender, what kind of pads he wore. Now there is so much more to focus on than just one guy. I still pay attention.”
Mason is looking for his 22nd victory on Monday. He has a 2.54 goals against average and .916 save percentage. But he also has two shutouts in his last three starts.
Lately, Mason has seemed taller in goal, according to Flyers coach Craig Berube.
“He’s been confident and big in net,” Berube said.
Mason said when things don’t go well for him, he tends to “retreat a little bit.”
He met with goalie coach Jeff Reese and goalie legend Bernie Parent at the Flyers Wives Carnival before this trip began.
Parent said something profound to him.
“I won't get into [specifics] but Bernie gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever got and it was something I took to heart and it definitely helped,” Mason said. “There’s up and downs every season. It’s a matter of how you come out of it and not allow a couple of negative things to affect you.”
Parent’s advice wasn’t of a technical nature, either. It was more "Bernie" -- as in, philosophical advice. Since retiring, he has become a fountain of philosophy (you'd know if if you read his blog).
“His technical stuff would probably be throwing out poke checks and skate saves,” Mason said. “I’ve talked to him quite a few times. He’s a fun guy to talk to. He is extremely knowledgeable. Just a couple things he said stuck in my mind and then Reeser [goaltending coach Jeff Reese] and I talked about it after Bernie left.”
There was something else about that day.
“Bernie was Reeser’s idol growing up,” Mason said. “Reeser said he was helping Bernie get dressed to go on the ice [at the Carnival].”
Last win here
The Flyers' last win in San Jose was 3-1. At the time, the Sharks were the highest scoring team in the NHL with 51 goals that November. John Vanbiesbrouck picked up the win facing just 16 shots while Eric Lindros’ line and Mark Recchi provided the scoring as the Flyers moved into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 7-6-2-1 record.