Steve Mason made 38 saves in the Flyers 3-1 win over the Avalanche on Thursday night. (Photo by Amy Irvin/Flyerdelphia)
With just under nine minutes to play in the third period of the Flyers 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, it seemed the Flyers worst fears may be realized. Steve Mason was down on the ice in apparent discomfort.
Mason spoke of cramping during the second and third periods after the game, but that scare certainly raises the question: should Mason's Olympic break begin early?
Mason assured that he would be ready to go again in practice on Friday.
"I'll just drink lots of water tonight and be ready to go for practice," the Flyers goalie said following the win.
The starting goalie for Saturday is a decision that certainly requires a deal of thought. Mason has clearly been the leading man between the pipes and has been excellent since the Flyers 5-0 shutout win against the Detroit Red Wings 10 days ago.
In his last five starts, Mason is 4-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA and .957 save percentage. He was 2:50 away from his third shutout in five games if not for Nathan MacKinnon's goal for Colorado.
Ray Emery has not played in a game since Jan. 25 against Boston. His last start was Jan. 23 against Columbus, a 5-2 Flyers loss. Emery also has four starts since the start of the new year.
But there are some positives to starting Emery on Saturday against the Calgary Flames. For one, Emery has already faced the Flames once this season, leading the Flyers to a 4-1 win on Dec. 31.
The Flyers don't have a goalie crisis on their hands and they certainly don't need one, reason that perhaps it would be best if the Flyers just gave Mason a break early.
The silver lining of any potential injury to Mason was that a three-week break from game action is looming for non-Olympic players. The Flyers will have a 10-day rest period before returning to practice as the final Olympic games commence in Sochi.
Regardless of Mason's injury scare and whatever may come as the Flyers prepare for the final game before the Olympic break on Saturday, the Flyers know they not only have a good goalie on their hands but a warrior in net.
"He gutted it out," head coach Craig Berube said. "That's not an easy thing to do - dehydration and cramping and stuff. He hung in there and did a great job."
"I think it's not just tonight," captain Claude Giroux said. "It's a lot of games. His work ethic is great. The saves he makes it's pretty impressive. We're happy he's on our side.
"He made a lot of key saves and that's what you want in your goalie - to make key saves to keep your team in it."
All season, Mason has been the Flyers leading performers. Many of the Flyers early victories on the season and even more recently can be attributed to his play in goal. For Mason, confidence is the key.
"I'm feeling comfortable," Mason said. "I don't want to get ahead of anything. I'm taking it one game at a time. Your job as the starting goalie every night is to make sure you provide stability back there and that's what I'm trying to do."
Whether Mason is between the pipes for the Flyers on Saturday or not, the Flyers will be looking for one more strong outing before the break. Berube said that after that game, a break is going to help the players not participating in Sochi.
"The layoff is good for some guys. We rest and stuff," Berube said. "But after the 10 days, you have to put your work in. It's important that our players, during that 10-day break, are doing something. So I think up to the individual, it's important that he's responsible and doing the right things."
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.