The NHL offseason is quickly coming to an end. The regular season begins on October 14th when the Flyers face the LA Kings. Coming off a successful season, the Flyers made a few additions to the organization that should help with depth. What the Flyers did over the offseason was set the stage for an organization-wide competition. A competition to determine who makes the Flyers regular roster and possibly which young guys make themselves known as NHL ready players.
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In Philadelphia professional sports, there are two positions that seem to catch a lot a criticism, they are Quarterback and Goaltender. We may not have a Bernie Parent, but we’ve had the best thing since, with Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth we have a goaltending tandem we can rely on
Starter – Steve Mason
Backup – Michal Neuvirth
Mason receives most of the criticism from fans. Despite the improvements he’s made since coming to Philadelphia, Mason gets a lot of unwarranted criticism. Mason played his first full season with the Flyers in 2013-2014 where he had 33 wins and 18 losses with a save percentage of .917. In 2014-2015, Mason had a record of 18-18 with a save percentage of .928. Last season Mason went 23-19 with a save percentage of .918 and a GAA of 2.51. Despite the lackluster defense corps in front of him, Mason is blamed for not doing enough.
Mason is a top 10 goalie in this league and a solid percentage of this fan base does not give him credit. Besides outstanding play from Gostisbehere during most of the season, Mason is one of the main reasons why the Flyers made it to the playoffs. Mason drug the Flyers through the last 20 something games of the season to get the Flyers into the playoffs, a job made more difficult by a lack of scoring. But that stretch of games is forgotten when he can’t carry the team past the League-leading Washington Capitals.
When Steve Mason is healthy and can move from post-to-post, and whip out his glove, he is one of the best goalies in the league. Mason staying healthy is a concern, but with a more improved defensive core and a contract ending, he should help us get back to the playoffs this year.
Neuvirth was picked up in the last off-season to help Mason as a backup after a slew of barely average backup options. Neuvirth has had a stint in the league playing for bad teams and has been apart of some unfortunate moves, but make no mistake, he can also be a leader in this league. Neuvirth collected 18 wins while only having 8 losses. In that span of games, Neuvirth posted a .924 save percentage with a GAA of 2.27.
In the past, there has been drama behind the scenes because of a lack of trust in the backup. Now, there is less of a risk to rush Mason or put him in a situation that may be detrimental to his career. Neuvirth has been nothing but outstanding in his Flyers tenure. We saw Neuvirth take over and shine when Mason had troubles. Steve Mason won’t be forced to play a ridiculous number of games on the season, something that may be a factor in the decline of more highly praised goalies in the later part of the season.
And that’s the best thing about this goalie situation. Every player on the team feels confident with either goalie occupying the crease. One of Neuvirths most impressive wins was game 5 in the playoffs against Washington, and unfortunately, it drew fans praise away from Mason.
Both goalies’ contracts are ending after this season. Both Mason and Neuvirth will probably want a raise. Neuvirth has been trying to become an NHL starter for a while, it’s why he left Washington. The expansion draft will no doubt be a factor in the Flyers goaltending future, and it’s very likely we will be seeing the end of this duo sooner rather than later.
Mason (28) – 1 yr/4.1M
Neuvirth (28) – 1 yr/1.625M
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