The Flyers have been leaning heavily on goalie Steve Mason and it’s starting to show. It might be time for a vacation.
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason is tired.
He knows it. The fans know it. Everyone seems well aware that Mason is beat from playing in 25 of the team’s last 27 games.
The problem is that Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol seems blissfully unaware that his goalie, the big reason the club won 10 straight games last month, is exhausted and needs some down time.
Mason has played in his ninth consecutive game on Wednesday night, a humiliating 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers. You don’t need to be an expert in the sport of hockey to see that the goalie is tired. His reaction time was off and he allowed an uncharacteristic bad goal to Chris Kreider.
When Mason was asked point blank if he was dealing with fatigue, even he had to admit it’s been a tough stretch.
“It’s been a heavy workload, but at the same time, I’m not going to complain that the coaching staff trusted me with a heavy workload and (has) shown the trust to put me in, night in and night out.
“Sometimes I haven’t played my best and they’ve shown the trust by putting me right back in there. It’s something you work toward. You just try to do your best to be a consistent presence back there.”
For his part, Hakstol is laying the blame for the Flyers recent 5-game losing streak on the rest of the club and insists his goalie is not tired.
“No, not fatigue. It’s a team game and we gave four, plus an empty netter. As a team, we will leave it at that. We gave up four goals that were a little too easy.”
Hakstol has said that his reluctance to give Mason a breather had to do with winning games and accumulating points in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division. But could this also be a sign of Hakstol’s general inexperience coaching at the pro level? Many fans forget that Hakstol is still really a rookie head coach in just his second year in the NHL. Of course, you would have though goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh would have stepped in if that was the case, so it’s tough to say.
While it may be very true that the Flyers are just not playing very good hockey right now, it is also true that Mason needs a break. And with the mid-point in the season fast approaching, the sooner the better.
And there may be no better time than now.
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The Flyers just sent backup goalie Anthony Stolarz back down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms now that Michal Neuvirth is healthy after missing a huge chunk of time with a knee injury. Neuvirth has played in just nine games this season and is no doubt itching to get back between the pipes.
Now would be a really good time for Hakstol to make that happen.
Otherwise, if the team keeps playing like it currently is, the postseason isn’t going to happen no matter who’s in goal.
If the Flyers do plan on making a deep playoff run this season, a healthy and rested Steve Mason is going to be a key component. It’s time for Neuvirth to be in goal for a bit and Mason to take a much-deserved break.