Steve Mason appears tired.
And it’s hurting the Flyers.
Dave Hakstol’s decision to ride Mason through eight of 10 games during the club’s winning streak, then continue to play him after the streak ended instead of using backup Anthony Stolarz, has backfired.
Mason played in his ninth straight game on Wednesday, an embarrassing, 5-2 blowout loss to the New York Rangers on home ice (see story). He appeared fatigued.
“No, not fatigue,” Hakstol insisted. “It’s a team game and we gave four [goals], plus an empty-netter. As a team, we will leave it at that. We gave up four goals that were a little too easy.”
And Mason couldn’t make a single momentum save on several two-on-ones that might have given the Flyers a chance in goal.
His reaction time and body language suggest the goalie is fatigued.
Mason couldn’t stop either of Kevin Hayes’ two goals and allowed a bad one to Chris Kreider. That’s not the goalie Mason has been when fresh.
“I wasn’t good enough. It’s pretty simple,” Mason said when asked about being tired. “They come with speed and they come with odd-man rushes. They were able to capitalize on it and I didn’t come up with the saves there.”
Mason made his 22nd start in 24 games on Wednesday night. In all, he’s played in 25 of the last 27 games. It’s the most work the Flyers' goalie has ever had over such a span — more than a quarter season’s worth of games.
Hakstol could have spelled Mason more when Stolarz was here, but the coach’s emphasis was gathering points because of the pressure to win in the Metropolitan Division, where several clubs had simultaneous win streaks. Hakstol felt Mason was a safer bet than Stolie to pile up points.
Stolarz should have played in New Jersey right before the break. And he should have played in Anaheim on the recently completed road trip in which the Flyers went 0-2-1 when Mason had a bruised left hand from San Jose.
Mason is 2-5-2 during his current nine-game stretch of consecutive starts with a 2.93 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
“Right now, it’s about winning hockey games,” Hakstol said of using Mason vs. the Ducks, a game in which the Flyers had 55 shots on net but just three goals. “The other stuff really doesn’t play into it.”
The really bad news here is that Hakstol has a tired goalie when his team is about to hit the midpoint of the season, which officially comes on Saturday against Tampa Bay.
And Stolarz is back with the Phantoms. Mason’s backup right now is Michal Neuvirth, who’s appeared in just nine games all season because of a left knee injury.
Neuvirth is healthy and untested and he’s got to get back in net this weekend.
Mason talked about his health status hours before the Rangers loss.
“It’s been a heavy workload, obviously,” Mason said. “I’ve tried to do the best I can to prepare my body for this load. Every day you just try to stay on top of things.”
Asked whether he was fatigued, Mason replied, “I feel alright.
“Like I said, 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.”
Well, it hasn’t worked to the Flyers' advantage.
“It’s not a fun time right now,” Mason said. “We have to find way to come out on top and just push through here without getting too discouraged.”