Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets is hoping to lead the team to relevance. While the Jacket’sare still a fairly young franchise, they’ll need stellar goaltending if the hope to become consistently competitive, and gain some league-wide respect.
Career Stats: Wins – Losses – SV% – SO
- 2008-2009: 33 – 27 – .916 – 10
- 2009-2010: 20 – 35 – .901 – 5
After a strong rookie season, the numbers show that Mason suffered the sophomore slump. The wins/losses can be attributed to the guys in front, but it’s up to him to keep up the SV%. Is he another flash in the pan, or is this guy the real deal?
Profile: Steve was taken in the 3rd round by the Blue Jackets in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, he was shutting down the OHL for the London Knights. He was named OHL Goaltender of the year, and set a league record for wins with 45 (broken since then). He didn’t play much over the following few seasons, whiel dealing with knee injuries. When he did play, he kept his SV% around a gaudy .915, and rarely lost games. Take a minute and enjoy these numbers. In 2008, he only let in 6 goals while posting a 5-0 record as Team Canada won the IIHF World Junior Championship. At that point, it became obvious that Mason was ready for a shot at the big time. So what’d he do as a rookie? Oh nothing special, just win Rookie of the Year, while leading the league in shutouts and earning a spot on the 2nd All Star Team. He was only nominated for the Vezina Trophy, as best goaltender. His follow-up season was more forgettable, as the whole club took a step back. They play in a division with Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis, so it will take a lot for them to even make the playoffs, let alone go deep. But if Steve Mason returns to the form that got him a Calder Trophy, it will make the path a bit easier.
What makes him special?: Like many young goalies, Mason relies and quickness and athleticism. Like more established veterans, he also has a good sense of anticipation. He has an advantage over other goalies because he holds the waffle with his left hand, and his mitt with his right hand. That may not significant, but it’s a much different look for shooters. Lefties hoping to pull a forehand backhand move on him just don’t have the positional advantage that they normally would on most other goalies. Less fancy players that are used to targeting a goalies stickside, usually the left part of the net, will be disappointed to see their shots snared by Mason’s quick glove. When Mason is down, is one of the best examples of him showing the ability to react to a shot before it happens. We all remember Hasek and his mad scrambles and “lucky” saves. I’m not saying Mason is anything like The Dominator, but he too makes those “lucky” saves. I keep putting lucky in quotes because I think it’s actually a pretty damn good skill. A good goalie is aware of where the net is, knows what holes a shooter is looking at, and is able to throw his body into the lane where the puck is likely headed. Mason senses where the puck is headed, and makes the save. Columbus isn’t on TV enough for me to judge what went wrong last season, and why they missed the playoffs a year after making it for the first time in team history. But I know the formula for success is good goaltending, and depth down the middle. Mason must continue to be solid, or else this Rick Nash and the rest of the guys will never get a sip from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Jersey Worthy?: Aside from Nash who else you got in Columbus? There’s no other bonafide stars, maybe a few solid guys that will stick around for a few years. If he’s playing well by mid-season, and there’s no one else waiting in the wings to take his spot, go for it.
Hate Factor: They just don’t make goalies like Ron Hextall anymore. With they way skaters are protected, if Mason has any intentions of taking cheap shots, he won’t get away with much. As a goalie, it’s really hard to be hated across the league. If he starts to suck, only the Columbus fans will care.
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