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Scouting the Opposition: Steve Mason

Mason

With the newly implemented playoff system, this year’s playoff matchups came into focus a bit quicker than they have in recent seasons. I remember the past few years writing multiple scouting posts depending on how the Rangers ultimately finished in the standings. This year, however, it’s only down to Philly and Columbus as potential opponents. I’m going to lead off with Steve Mason, and if Columbus jumps the Flyers in the standings, I’ll just hijack one of my colleague’s slots next week to scout Bobrovsky. Coin flip at this point.

The format remains the same, Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-handling ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it…

At this point, most of us know the book on Mason: Rookie of the Year winner, future superstar turned reclamation project for the Flyers. No one really knows that happened to him after that first season in Columbus that wrecked his confidence, but he has rebounded significantly in his first season in Orange and Black, and was rewarded with a slightly pre-mature, slightly ridiculous 3-year/$12.3 million contract.

Stance

From a visual standpoint, Mason is something like a southpaw Carey Price. Now, this isn’t to say at all that he is even in the same stratosphere talent-wise as the Habs’ keeper, but the style is very similar.

The design is to sit comfortably in your hip-flexors without coiling up your crouch too much. It allows for fluid and balanced movement, but sacrifices explosiveness. And therein lies the biggest difference between Mason and Price is that core strength. Price effortless glides around the crease with precision and grace, and it’s more of a chore for Mason.

This doesn’t render his style ineffective, it just doesn’t translate to that elite performance that everyone was hoping for during his impressive rookie campaign. Aside from the balance, his stance is pretty average. Not many quirks, average leg width, gloves high, the usual. The most interesting thing about it is that he catches with the wrong hand…

Crease Movement/Depth

As mentioned in the previous section, Mason does not have elite mobility. He moves around well, utilizing butterfly slides and good positional instincts. His depth is a little deeper than average; you don’t see him getting caught too far from home, but isn’t a goal line keeper like Hank is either. He is generally found just below the top of the crease for normal movements.

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As many goalies are starting to incorporate more, Mason is a sucker for the paddle-down technique. It helps seal up the bottom part of the net with no gaps (like between the pads), but it forces the goalie to drop the blocker shoulder to position the stick flush. This creates vulnerability high if not executed properly. Just something to keep an eye on.

Equipment

Mason001

2014 Padstracker

Over the years, Mason has been a complete and utter gear-whore. He has had countless sets of equipment to match the wide array of Blue Jackets uniforms over the years and has been known to switch pads multiple times through out the season. He’s not quite on Tim Thomas’ level, but not far off.

Mason has historically been a Vaughn guy, wearing the traditional Velocity line before switching to the more hybrid 7900 series. In his last year in Columbus, he made the manufacturer shift to the CCM EFP line, which he’s been wearing ever since. The construction of the pads seem very similar to the Vaughn’s visually, but in reality are much, much stiffer.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an observation of Mason’s equipment prior to his rebound season this year. It always seemed that his equipment didn’t fit properly with the Blue Jackets. The thigh rise on the pads were always very short, and he didn’t wear proportional body padding. I know people are always at the size of goalie equipment, but he kind of looked like a Praying Mantis out there. His current set up is much more appropriate.

Puck-Handling

Mason is a very competent puck-handling goalie. He’s not flashy like Brodeur or Smith, but he knows what he’s doing. He utilizes the overhand grip that was pioneered by Marty Turco in the late 90’s to solid effect. I wouldn’t worry so much about him launching the homerun passes, but he’s not easily rattled behind the cage and won’t be giving away many careless mistakes.

Exploitable weaknesses

Mason’s achilles heel has always been the squeaker. He’s been prone to being in solid position, but just lets the puck squeeze through his arm or between the legs (we saw this the last time the two teams met). He has remedied much of the problem this year, and I think it could also be attributable to the equipment issues in Columbus. However, the Rangers should not hesitate to throw pucks at the net whenever possible, because you honestly just don’t know with Mason. One of them could be a backbreaker.

Aside from just constant peppering, it would behoove the Rangers to try and force Mason to move laterally, but above the net-mouth. He seals the bottom of the net well and has an active stick, so you need to get the puck out of his reach and force him out of position. He has that slight Luongo tendency to end up on his face going side to side when his balance isn’t weighted correctly.

Conclusion

With 15 of the 16 playoff spots locked up, I feel comfortable in saying the Flyers have the worst goaltending amongst playoff teams outside of Minnesota. Mason doesn’t stack up well against any of the Eastern Conference’s top tenders and the Flyers are going to have to score an awful lot of goals to compensate if they play on a making a run.

There is a definite weakness on the back-end to exploit if the Rangers do draw the Flyers, and is probably the best paper matchup the Blueshirts could get. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but its better than Rask, Howard, Bishop, Bobrovsky or Fleury.

"Scouting the Opposition: Steve Mason", 5 out of 5 based on 4 ratings.

13 Responses to “Scouting the Opposition: Steve Mason”

  1. Dave says:

    Lefty goalies always freak me out, I don’t know why.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      The Latin word for “left” is “sinister” (loose translation: “on the left side”).

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      My brother is a lefty goalie. And in a sinister like fashion, locked onto the Devils fan base at a young age.

      • Seahorse says:

        not all of us lefties are evil but i do have a take over the world plan that putin ripped off from me

  2. Bloomer says:

    Goaltending has always been the Flyers Achilles heel. Mason has been good of late and has the ability to pull off some very good performances. If the Rangers want to beat him they need to be better then they were against Buffalo last night.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I personally think Mason will have a case of Fleuryism in the playoffs. I think after his rookie season he put too high an expectation on himself and has never recovered. This year his confidence was repaired a bit playing for a contender in Philly. I believe as soon as the pressure of the playoffs build on him, he will let in some softies and fall apart from there. I also believe if we play Philly in the first round. We will see Emery at some point or another. Would rather play Philly. The Rangers can/will beat CBJ but Bob can keep the games close and the Jackets are big tough and young with little to no fear. I see injuries in that series. Let another team deal with them. Pittsburgh or Boston. The Jackets will slow either opponent down for their 2nd round matchup. CBJ could even beat the Pens in 7. Pitt is not good when the physicality is wrenched up. Their top players get off their game.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      It still is their weakness. They solidified it somewhat with Mason. He’s not an astonamer like Bryz or Swiss cheese like a few other experiments. I wonder why they let Bob go. He didn’t fit Laviolette’s run n gun system but that wasn’t a healthy system for any goalie. Bob would thrive under Berube now. Too bad. Lol. TB had Smith too. They gave him away and he became a star. His only problem was between the ears. His concentration waivered in games. Allowed goals from behind the Red Line. No more.
      I’d rather Philly than CBJ. Let the Pens deal with that first round matchup. Come out all banged up. Maybe even golfing in pain. Those Jackets are bruisers.

  3. Walt says:

    Mason, as the Flyers, can be had, but it will be a tough series. He can play well at times, and look like garbage at other times. Lets hope if we face him, that he has a melt down at the begining of the series, that will carry over for the length of the series!!

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      Aside from goaltending I think the Rangers are too deap for the Flyers holy defense. Their defensive zone coverage as a team is an adventure always. As they seem to have trouble getting in position as the puck moves around their defensive zone.

  4. Bloomer says:

    He is not a Bernie Parent or a Pelle Lindbergh that’s for sure.

  5. Chris F says:

    Some interesting comments from Richards today regarding how the team plans on responding to the type of cheap shots that have drawn criticism for the Rangers lack of response. Specifically he was referring to attempts by opposition to target McDonagh in the playoffs, where he spoke of a pack mentality, if one goes in to respond to a hit, they all go in.

    http://nypost.com/2014/04/11/mcdonagh-will-be-a-marked-man/

  6. Tim B says:

    Im afraid we will not be scoring enough goals like 2 seasons ago in the playoffs where every game was close in score. With top 6 players not getting enough points i think Zucc should be put on the 1st line with Stepan and Nash and here is why, a very consistent Zucc is a playmaker and he can finish as well. So i think Zucc can set up some of there better finisher in Nash and Stepan. I think that line would be successful. I do see why people would want to keep Zucc-Brass and Pouliot together but lets be honest that line gets a goal almost every night. If Zucc is setting up step and nash they might have a better chance scoring 2 or more goals a night like a legit top line. For the 2nd line i think it should be Fast-Richie-St. Louis: only because the 3rd line should be good defensively and Hagelin is better on defense than Fast. I also think Hags-Brass-Pouliot would be a solid third line. Hags is also a playmaker liek zucc and hags is a bottom 6 player right. Every game counts so i would put him on the third line. As for the 2nd line, i think fast would get better by playing with 2 great playmakers settig him up. Obviously Fast can be scratched when Kreider returns. 4th line is good and i guess you can scratch one of them if they dont have a good night. Who agrees with me here. It should be a good matchup as Mason is showing that he is a starting goalie.

    • Walt says:

      Tim

      I would start the lines as they are, and not mix, and match from the begining. The idea of breaking up the Brass-Zucc-Pouliot line really makes no sense to me.

      If the top line draws the best defensive players of the Flyers lets say, then the third line gets weaker defenders, and they can have a field day for themselves. Just a thought?????

      Let’s also not forget, last season Brass had a good run in the play-offs, while Nash didn’t, what’s to say that won’t be the same?? Kreider will be back in time, Fast will sit, and Kreider slides back into the first line duties!!