For much of the night, it appeared that the Philadelphia Flyers would leave Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings again complaining about a lack of offensive prowess, and general poor play from their skaters. Up until Matt Read found the back of the net at 16:38 in the second period the team had been mostly hopeless in the offensive zone, but this goal set off an offensive explosion.
The Flyers would go on to score the next four goals of the game and win 6-3, winning an important conference game and likely giving many fans a bit of false confidence. The win improved the team to 13-13-2 for the 2013-14 season, which is good for a tie with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils for third place in the Metropolitan Division and eight in the Eastern Conference. Additionally it likely made many people think that they will be scoring goals regularly moving forward, and will make some people ignore just how the team has been able to win games thus far.
But while many fans and media members will look to upgraded offensive production on Wednesday night as a hopeful sign of the future, the play of goaltender Steve Mason should not be overlooked. On the night, he provided the steady hand that allowed the Flyers to remain in the game up until the time their offense exploded, stopping 32 out of 35 shots and helping the team kill six out of seven penalties on the night. The goaltender was certainly not perfect, but he made all of the routine stops and a few spectacular ones that allowed Philadelphia to withstand taking five penalties in the last eleven minutes of the second period.
Despite the Flyers rather unspectacular record on the season, it is clear this performance from Mason is not a fluke though, but is becoming quite the norm during a spectacular 2013-14 season. In 20 games played, he has a 10-8-2 record with a 2.14 GAA, and .932 save percentage, which has made the 25 year old one of the best and most consistent goaltenders in the NHL.
Performing like this has not only made Mason the undisputed No. 1 starter for the Flyers — ahead of Ray Emery — but has turned him into the teams most valuable player. This is because the team has no real defensive anchor in front of goal, and oftentimes this season their forwards unit has looked disillusioned to say the least, with Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell amongst those who have found the net hard to find. Clearly this is not a combination normally conducive to winning, but steady and sometimes spectacular goalie play will always win games at the NHL level.
When your team ranks 29th in goals per game and only 10th in goals allowed per game, yet is in playoff contention, there is no doubting your teams goalie is the one winning games, and Mason is doing just that for the Flyers. Without his play the team would rank amongst the worst in the NHL, and it is time that some begin to recognize he is both Philadelphia’s most valuable player of the 2013-14 season and should be a genuine contender for the league MVP as well.