The Importance of Being Chris Mason
By: Miranda Martin
Now more than ever is the time to have a good back-up goaltender.
In this very short and very busy season, every NHL team is facing back-to-back games, generally with travel between. While this is very trying on every player, it is especially tiresome on a goalie. In a traditional 82-game season, it is generally acceptable for each goalie to play a respective game in the series, but sometimes down the stretch, that is not the best idea.
So what is best to do this season?
Many teams witnessed how their teams would react to one of many back-to-back series this opening weekend. One of the crucial decisions to the series is what goalie to start. Some teams decided to split the games between the two goatenders. The Pittsburgh Penguins thrived in two victories by splitting games between Marc-Andre Fleury and former Predator Tomas Vokoun. The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks also saw success by each goaltender playing a game. The Vancouver Canucks found out that sometimes switching goalies isn’t the best option, losing to the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout after giving goaltender Roberto Luongo the start. Other teams attempted to play their starting goalies once again and faltered. Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov saw his second loss Sunday, and 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after allowing 4 goals in the Ranger’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
Coaches are going to have big decisions to make, especially as time progresses. Do you play the guy that is on fire, or do you play the backup to keep the hot goalie rested? Generally, there would be opportunities to play backup goaltenders in the “less important” of the back-to-back series, but, as the dead horse gets beaten again, every game counts more than ever now. The teams that have faith in both of their goaltenders or have faced the common “goalie controversy” may actually have an advantage this year.
For the Predators, there aren’t as many worries with this decision. As a backup, Chris Mason has proven himself on many occasions, and this is a major opportunity to keep Pekka Rinne rested. There’s already a small amount of established faith with Mason, who has had a record of 58-43-1-11 over the course of franchise’s history. There’s a reason they keep bringing him back—he is a career backup goaltender that is great at his job. When he is called upon, he is capable with answering with wins. And though the Preds goalie tandem seems a lot shorter now, it is a good pairing to go to a labor intense season.
With St. Louis on Monday and an immediate trip to Minnesota on Tuesday, coach Barry Trotz will have to find the answer to the looming back-to-back question soon. Even if he chooses to play Rinne for the first series, there are still seven more back-to-back series along the stretch. Eventually, Mason will get the start the question isn’t if, but when. But, if history has any say, fans can rest a little easy.