Third-period comeback makes for 'special' night for Mason
Steve Mason is 13-9-4 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .922 save percentage this season. (AP)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand something is a little off with goalie Steve Mason right now.
He’s given up 16 goals over four of his last six starts. That’s not the Mason from a month ago.
He knows it.
Goalie coach Jeff Reeese knows it, as well.
Shots off his pads aren’t going cleanly into the corners. Rebounds are eluding his reach directly around him, as well.
“Last month I had an extremely sharp game and it hasn’t been sharp in recent games and we’ve gone over a lot of video and Jeff has reinforced it’s still a very simple game,” Mason said.
“I got to start making more saves on key opportunities, whether it be a 2 on 1 or whatever. We’ve had a couple of bad bounces. It’s a matter of staying the course. And we had a couple pucks deflect off our guys into the net. These are things that happen over the course of a season.
“I keep saying, it’s not to lose confidence in what we’re building here. I have 100 percent confidence in my game. I know if I keep working, my sharpness will get back to where it was.”
Where it was on Nov. 30 after a 3-2 shootout win at Nashville, saw Mason with a 2.09 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Where it is now is 2.40 GAA and .922 save percentage, although his record over that span is 5-1-2 with one no-decision.
Mason hasn’t played badly. He just hasn’t played anywhere near the level he was in November.
Which is why Reese worked quite a bit with him Friday in Voorhees and at Saturday’s morning skate in Columbus.
Things like rebounds, clearing pucks to the corner, and shots from the slot off passes behind the net, all of which has been troublesome for Mason, lately.
Ray Emery will start tonight against the Blue Jackets.
“Right now, Steve’s game is up and down, no question,” Reese said. “It’s been inconsistent. The good news? He hasn’t lost in his last five. He’s 3-0-2 and he’s lost one game [in regulation] over his last nine starts.
“There’s no panic going on. We want to get him back to being consistent. That’s what we are looking for.”
Mason admitted he needed some additional practice time to work on technical aspects. The recent six-game road trip didn’t offer that and things began to unravel a bit.
“The season has been so busy we have not had time working on fundamental things, like tracking the puck into my body and really watching it from when it leaves the stick and hits your pad,” Mason said. “When you track pucks like that, it makes it easier handling rebounds.
“When you’re not getting that practice time, it slips away from you and my game hasn’t been as crisp as in previous weeks.”
Mason will play Monday against Minnesota, which is the Flyers' last game before the Christmas break.
Reese said they’ve gone over Mason’s entire game. He said handling pucks and rebounds are a tad off and it can be corrected.
“We want to get his focus back to going out on each shot and being consistent,” Reese said. “That’s what the team needs.
“Remember, one loss in his last nine starts and he hasn’t had his best stuff in net. That’s good news.”
Actually, that’s very good news because the Flyers are still winning hockey games and remain in a playoff berth -- third in the Metropolitan Division -- coming into tonight’s game.
Reese said that Mason has made some “technical” adjustments, but still has a little “mental” adjustments to make to get his full confidence back.
Flyers head coach Craig Berube made the decision early in the week to play Mason against his former club in Philly -- not Columbus.
“The plan was Ray would play here,” Berube said. “I liked Mace at home in that game.”
Reese added: “It’s extra pressure in an already pressure situation,” by having Mason face Columbus here in Ohio than at home.
“We thought about it, it was his first trade, first time back, no reason to put him into an extra-pressure situation,” Reese said.
Mason was fine with the decision, too.
“We went over the schedule prior to the first Columbus game in Philadelphia and they explained their thoughts and I was fully supportive of it,” Mason said.
“Playing in front of my home fans and getting the win in Philadelphia against my old team was special, especially, the way the boys performed for me.”
Relax and let Emery do the job tonight.
“Sit back, enjoy the game and being back in Columbus and seeing people I haven’t seen in a while will be nice,” Mason said. “I’ll be supportive of the boys on the bench.”
Steve Downie was still on the ice long after others left the building, likely indicating he will not play tonight. … Jay Rosehill has been a healthy scratch for four straight games. … Vinny Lecavalier? He took part in the optional morning skate, but it seems more likely the Flyers allow him additional recovery time for his injured back and activate him for the post-Christmas road trip starting in Edmonton on Dec. 28.