With another Philadelphia Flyers season just a few weeks away, the team is gearing up for opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s apparent that a number of players are sure to be on the ice: Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to name a few.
One question remains; who will be the starting goaltender?
The Flyers utilized one of their two amnesty buyouts on Ilya Bryzgalov this offseason, nullifying his $5.66 million salary. With Bryzgalov gone, the Flyers signed Ray Emery to a one-year, $1.65 million deal. They had already agreed to terms with former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, who inked a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Flyers.
Mason started in six games as a Flyer last season, posting a 4-2 record with a goals against average of 1.9 and a save percentage of .944. Emery posted an incredible 17-1 record with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks last season as he backed up starting goaltender Corey Crawford. He finished the season with a 1.94 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.
Statistically, Mason and Emery posted almost identical numbers, with a negligible edge going to Mason. All things considered, Emery was backed by a better team than Mason. The Blackhawks emerged as one of the most dominant teams in recent history, and Emery was playing behind a high-powered offense and shut-down defense.
Mason, meanwhile, was playing behind a Flyers team that was eliminated from the playoffs, plagued by injuries and suffering from a leaky defense. Nevertheless, he posted impressive numbers during his short season.
Either candidate would make a fine starter, but Emery has suffered from injuries throughout his career. It is unknown whether or not the 30-year-old goalie can play a full season as a starter. Mason has started for the Blue Jackets in the past, before he lost the gig to former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky. At 25-years old, Mason has yet to show signs of any reoccurring injuries.
Based of his past performances, youth and resiliency, Mason is deserving of the starting spot. Emery has shown that he can excel as a backup, a role that should not be under-appreciated. With any luck, the curse of the goaltending carousel will finally cease once the puck drops on October 2.