It’s hard not to have been impressed with what Steve Mason has done for the Flyers in just four games.
He showed he could come off the bench cold against Winnipeg and shut a team down for a period.
He’s had three starts. He deserved a better fate than the 1-0 loss in Buffalo, then took on the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and outdueled him for his first win.
The question now is: Has Mason earned the right to go against New Jersey on Thursday?
That won’t be answered until gameday.
“Jeff Reese, our goaltending coach here, and I have been working on things,” Mason said after his 4-2 win over the Rangers on Monday. “The main thing was about reducing the depth on the rush and making my game more simple. Being 6-4, I can take a blow in net being further back in the crease than most guys, so I try to take advantage of that and so far it’s paying off. I’m just looking forward to continuing to get better.”
Coach Peter Laviolette used Mason because of a back-to-back situation with Ilya Bryzgalov having played the night before during a 7-3 rout in Montreal.
“I think the one thing about moving the goalies back and forth is that you can take certain days and get some in, even if it’s a game day for the guy who is not starting,” Laviolette said. "That’s for Bryz too. It’s just an opportunity to work and talk about things and maybe it’s just little things, but that practice time is real important. There is not a lot of it right now, down the stretch, but certainly he seems to be feeling comfortable here.”
When Mason goes out, Laviolette is seeing him up close and personal. Simply put, Mason is mostly an unknown commodity to the Flyers’ staff.
“I don’t have a lot of track record of him, being in the Western Conference,” Laviolette said. “Certainly, you see him play, but I think you always see more. Right now, I think he’s in control of the net. He has a good glove. He seems to be seeing the puck really well, rebounds are going off to the side or not at all.”
Mason outplayed Lundqvist Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, plain and simple.
“He’s one of the best as the Vezina Trophy winner last year,” Mason said of Lundqvist. “As a younger goalie in the league, he’s someone you look up to and want to compete against. Tonight, I was able to get the best of him and I look forward to being able to do that more often.”
Rangers forward Ryan Callahan gave Mason credit.
“He played well,” Callahan said. “We had a couple golden chances there that he stopped us on, in the third too. You got to tip your hat to him on that one.”
Blueshirts coach John Tortorella answered only one question from the media after the game. It was about Mason.
“Oh, we doubled them up in chances,” he said. “I mean, first period we had a lot of good chances. They only had two or three, they scored two goals, but I thought we kept on coming. We just couldn’t solve Mason. We developed some offense, we couldn’t solve Mason.”
The win moved the Flyers into the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference just five points from the Rangers and a playoff spot with a little over a week left in the regular season.
Five down with five to go.
SportsClubStats.com says the Flyers' odds at making the playoffs are just 0.4 percent.
“It’s just important to, you know, we can’t control [it],” Laviolette said. “We’re in a hole. We put ourselves here and we accept that. I think it’s important that we keep fighting. So, I think the guys have done an outstanding job. They have played a couple of games. They played a really tough game in Montreal. It was a very fast, very competitive game, which you have to play against Montreal.
“I’m sure that they didn’t go to bed until three, four in the morning by the time they fell asleep, so to come back and play a team that needs to be successful tonight and to compete and continue to push, I’m proud of the guys.”
Five games for White
Montreal Canadiens center Ryan White received a five-game suspension for his hit to the head of defenseman Kent Huskins, who left Monday's game in Montreal with a concussion.
White had an in-person hearing with the NHL's discipline czar, Brendan Shanahan, which meant there was a possibility he could have been suspended for six or more games.
The NHL posted a video explaining the decision behind the suspension.
White, 25, will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season.