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Greenberg: Mason playing with heart

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers


A man currently without a margin for error, Steve Mason solves that problem by not making them.

Until T.J. Oshie, who put on the greatest shootout show ever in Sochi, and the dazzling Vladimir Tarasenko put pills by the Flyers goalie following his 65 dazzling shutout minutes Thursday night, the Blues had no medicine for Mason, who, fielding 17 mostly threatening shots in the third period, gave the Flyers their best single 20 minutes of goaltending in recent memory.

Unlike Tuesday against Dallas, the Flyers didn’t let their scoring frustrations get to them, keeping their energy up throughout 60 minutes against one of the league’s best club’s, earning a point in the 1-0 shootout loss. Of course, that’s not enough reward for their predicament -- trailing Boston by 10 points with 13 games to go. Nevertheless, it is some consolation to keepers of the flame that these Flyers will resume doing in the final 13 games what Flyers traditionally do -- play to the whistle.

Mason didn’t think they did that Tuesday night and said so, not as a goalie who wanted to distance himself from a weak effort, more like an emerging key player taking some ownership of a team that has to get better.

“It was taken the wrong way,” said Craig Berube. “He was unhappy with the whole game.

“Losing. That’s what Mason is unhappy with.”

Watch Steve Mason talk to the media
following practice on Friday...

The Flyers always have collected guys who are unhappy with losing. They probably have as many as they ever have, just not enough right now who can keep their emotion levels up through the downturns of a game.

After failing to grab a lead with a second period power play in Game 7 last April in New York, their letdown turned into two Ranger goals that won the series. Too often they continue to let themselves down.

Every team has those stretches, but the true Stanley Cup contenders have fewer. If the Flyers aspire to that standard, they have to become mentally tougher. It’s a process, like perhaps a still young goalie taking a deep breath next time and not allowing his frustration to become misinterpreted.

Ron Hextall once was Steve Mason, calling the Flyers, in the midst of a 6-13-3 start to the 1987-88 season, a “disgrace to the uniform” after a loss in St. Louis.

Then, nobody said a goalie who months earlier had carried the Flyers to a final, should just worry about himself. General Manager Bob Clarke, in fact, welcomed emotion that he thought had been missing. It took a couple more weeks, but the Flyers righted themselves and were back in first place by Christmas. So if anybody understands caring, it is the once-goalie who now assembles the Flyers.

“[Mason] didn’t take himself out of the hook necessarily, he didn’t say ‘ten guys or 15 guys’” said Hextall Thursday night. “He said ‘we.’

“I don’t have an issue with that. There are certain things you want to keep amongst your teammates that aren’t open public consumption. Better if a player says those things in the room first before he tells them to the media. But I don’t think this was over the line.”

Two nights later, the Blues spent 65 hard minutes being unable to get any pucks over the line, which is putting your money where your mouth is. Enough said, this time Mason basically said.

“I just have to worry about stopping the puck,” he said. “We have guys who have a lot of talent offensively; they are working for it.

“I just have to continue to focus on what I can control, which is stopping the puck.”

At New Jersey, he blamed himself for not making a stop on both one man and two-man breakaways. After clunker goals, he has beaten himself up publically with the best of them. The fifth best save percentage in the league indicates that Mason’s body is in the right place and we, would argue, so is his heart.

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