If you wear the Orange and Black and play between the pipes, you tend to face a lot of pressure. After all, the Flyers last truly great goaltender for several seasons is now the general manager.
This is the position Steve Mason finds himself in this season. His first full season with the Flyers was incredibly success.
Mason won 33 games in 2013-14, posting a 2.50 GAA and a .917 save percentage. In the playoffs, he missed the first three games, which could have been the difference in the Flyers early exit.
Entering a second season always brings questions about continued success. Mason was good last season. But earlier during the offseason, former Flyer turned analyst Jeremy Roenick said Mason wasn’t the elite goalie that could win the Flyers a Stanley Cup.
So already, Mason has doubters. Those doubts grew slightly on Thursday when it was announced that Mason was out for two weeks with a broken pinky.
Mason signed a contract extension last season that makes him the Flyers goalie of the future. At 26, the future looks bright.
But the real test is surviving this second season. It’s important to evaluate performance from the goalie individually. Mason had a rough stretch of games last season in January where he allowed at least three goals in six straight games. In a majority of cases, goals allowed weren’t always his fault.
It wasn’t often people were acknowledging a soft goal on Mason’s part, rather noticing defensive coverages, turnovers or other miscues. So the pressure isn’t just on Mason to have a repeat performance this season but for the defense to play better in front of him.
There is job security for now. Last season, Mason and Ray Emery were both in position to be the starting goalie. The battle was short-lived.
But things happen quickly in Philadelphia. The Flyers have been on the goalie carousel before. It looks like they finally got off. It’s up to Mason to keep them off.
The injury is minor. This won’t jeopardize the start of Mason’s season like Claude Giroux’s hand injury last season. But it still is a scare to hear your top goalie has an injury.
With that said, Mason should also be bringing excitement to Flyers fans for the upcoming season. Like the scoring duo on the top line – Giroux and Jake Voracek – and the potential of seeing some younger players emerge from the minors, Mason is the steady rock of the defense. He is a core player.
It may very well take an elite goalie to win a Stanley Cup. But all goalies that win a Cup started when Mason is. They all are unproven at some time before becoming elite. At 26, Mason has a lot left to prove and to the Flyers benefit, his best years could still be ahead of him.
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.