There is talk of healthy competition, or even a goalie controversy, but my money is on Steve Mason for the Philadelphia Flyers #1 goalie job
What Ron Hextall is doing with goalies at the Philadelphia Flyers is not getting much attention. Everyone seems to have noticed his piling of picks and prospects, and his slow approach with bringing along prospects.
Perhaps equally noteworthy, however, is his approach to the goalie position. You’d hope a former goalie would have some insight to the position, even if the current thinking is that goalies are hard to figure out and nearly impossible to draft.
In the last year and change, Hextall has drafted 3 goalies within the first 3 rounds of the draft, and signed the most highly rated goalie coming out of college this year. He also made an excellent free agent signing last summer, snapping up the talented Michal Neuvirth.
This is all coming at a time when Mason had a spectacular 2014-15 season, and former 2nd round pick Anthony Stolarz is breaking through in the AHL.
Now I have always liked Michal Neuvirth’s game, going back to when he was a young goalie with the Caps. I’ve always thought that, stylistically, he reads the game and moves like a poor man’s Carey Price. That said, his NHL career has been a series of what-ifs due to injury and circumstance.
More recently, Mason really struggled at the beginning and end of last season. In those circumstances, Neuvirth really came through for the Flyers. On top of that, Neuvirth briefly earned the job for the Czech Republic at the World Cup this month. This naturally raises questions for what will happen in the Philadelphia Flyers net.
My money is on Steve Mason. While he had a tough season last year, I’m not changing my tune from last summer.
To repeat the high points of that piece, Mason has been nothing but good since becoming a Flyer. Over the time frame covering his first 2+ season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Mason was 5th in the NHL in save percentage.
In 2014-15, Mason was spectacular. Mason’s 5v5 save percentage that season was .944. This was even better than Carey Price who won both the Vezina and Hart for his efforts. If you like advanced stats, Mason’s “adjusted Fenwick save percentage” at 5v5 (this is save percentage on unblocked shot attempts minus what you would be “expected” to save based on shot locations, available from corsica.hockey) was second only to Carey Price.
Of course as soon as I pointed out these things, Mason had a “down” season. Even then, it was still pretty good. His .918 save percentage was still quality, and he remained second in the NHL in “adjusted Fenwick save percentage,” trailing only Henrik Lundqvist (albeit no one was close to Lundqvist last season).
Long story short, Mason has been a top-notch goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers. He had a poor start and a poor finish to last season, but a pretty good middle and I expect a bounceback.
Neuvirth, for his part, is also a very capable goalie. He will be there whenever the Flyers call on him, but there’s got to be some reason he hasn’t firmly grasped a number one job after seven years in the league. For this reason, I come back to Mason.
Neither Mason nor Neuvirth are signed after next year. Both will be free agents next summer unless Hextall’s locks one up first. It appears that Hextall’s is simply letting things play out and letting the chips fall where they may, but I’m betting they’ll fall in Mason’s favor.