Since joining the Philadelphia Flyers late last season at the trade deadline, Steve Mason has been on fire. Posting a 14-10-2 record since becoming a Flyer, Mason has shown that he is much improved from his past couple seasons in Columbus. Stone Cold Steve Mason has been just that – icing opponents by not allowing more than 3 goals in a game since putting on the orange and black. He has been the best player on the Flyers’ roster all season and has kept them in games – and even won games – that the Flyers could have lost by 5 or 6 goals. All that being said, Mason has made himself a serious contender for a spot on Team Canada in Sochi this February.
At the beginning of the season, some of the goalies for Team Canada were already in question. One of the biggest questions being Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. Luongo is known for choking in some big moments, the biggest being in the the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. In the entire 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Luongo allowed a mammoth number of goals, 61 in 25 games played. 20 of those goals came in the the 7 games of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then, Luongo has never fully recovered. So far this season in 25 games played, Luongo is 12-8-5 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA. This, especially when compared to Mason’s 10-8-2 record, .932 save percentage and 2.14 GAA, is not worthy of Olympic honors. If the choice is based on experience, Luongo wins, but if the choice is based on who has been hot as of late, it has to go to Mason.
The other choice as a backup for Team Canada is the Phoenix Coyotes‘ goalkeeper Mike Smith. Smith has been a pretty reliable goaltender over the past couple of years, both with his final seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Coyotes, leading the league in shutouts last season with 5. However, as of this season Smith has allowed more goals than any other goalie in the NHL with 70. Mason has allowed 42 goals in only 4 less games. The Coyotes’ netminder also posts a GAA average of 3.02, almost a whole goal higher than Mason’s GAA. While Smith is playing with a young defense in front of him and that could be hurting his statistics this season, that still doesn’t exempt him from his statistics and give him a spot on Team Canada. Steve Mason, along with having the hotter hand over Luongo, is outperforming Mike Smith this season, and should be on the roster in Sochi.
Another choice for Team Canada in net is the Chicago Blackhawks‘ Corey Crawford. Most hockey fans are familiar with Crawford, considering he won the Stanley Cup last year with the Blackhawks and won the William M. Jennings award for fewest goals allowed by a goalie or goalies, along with current Flyer Ray Emery. Crawford currently leads the league in wins with 17 in 25 games played. He also posts a a GAA of 2.43 and a Save Percentage of .909 – both of which not as good as Mason. However, this one is not as easy to argue for Mason, considering the fact that Crawford won the Stanley Cup last year and allowed the lowest number of goals and leads the NHL in wins.
Another goaltender that is hard to argue against is Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. He is simply playing out of his mind this season. He is posting a GAA of 2.00 and a save percentage of .937, he is among the best in the league this season. Basing it on the hot hand, Carey Price should be the starter for Team Canada in Sochi. But I fully believe Steve Mason could be an extremely reliable backup to Price. and maybe Crawford, in the Olympics in February.
Other netminders that have an opportunity for Team Canada are the Minnesota Wild‘s Josh Harding and the Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury. However, what concerns me most about Harding is his inconsistency over his career and lack of experience as a #1 goalie, however he has been one of the best goaltenders this season posting an NHL leading 1.45 GAA and a .939 save percentage with a 14-4-3 record. Also, part of that inconsistency is due to the fact that he had MS. Harding could prove to be the most reliable option for Team Canada in net, considering he has been the hottest goalie thus far this season. Fleury to me is a concern because of his play in the playoffs last year; as a Flyers fan it made me laugh – if I were a fan of Team Canada it would make me cringe. But, based on his play this season with a 2.06 GAA and a .918 save percentage along with a 15-7-1 record, he too is making a case for Team Canada.
Despite Fleury and Harding’s impressive starts to this season, I still think Mason at the least deserves a consideration for Team Canada. He has been the most vital piece to the Flyers’ success as of late in this season. Without Mason, the Flyers’ could still be in last place in the Metropolitan Division. But, as Flyers’ fans lets take a moment and think about the fact that the Flyers’ have a goalie who is competing amongst the top 10 starting goalies in the league statistically and worth mentioning with some of the elite netminders in the NHL – it feels pretty good.