We see it all the time in the NHL playoffs: a hot goalie stealing a game, series, or even occasionally the Stanley Cup for his respective team. And on Friday night in Philadelphia it was 25-year old Steve Mason stepping up to rob the New York Rangers of what would have been a crushing 3-1 series lead. Instead the series stands tied 2-2 following the crucial 2-1 victory.
The game started off in familiar fashion as the Rangers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a 1st period goal by Dominic Moore. But the Flyers, desperate for a home win, turned to a man who had not started a playoff game in five years, since he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. And Mason answered the call, shutting down New York for the final 55 minutes of the contest.
It certainly wasn’t an easy game as the orange and black were outshot (38-25) and out-chanced by a wide margin. But the goalies were the obvious difference. Lundqvist, though solid, was clearly playing second fiddle as he made 23 saves on 25 shots. He allowed the tying goal to Matt Read in the first period, then was beaten for the game-winner by a Jakub Voracek deflection in the second. From that point on it was the Mason show as he beat back a barrage of Ranger shots, including a diving stick save on Ryan Macdonagh to preserve the win.
The match-up continues on Sunday at noon (on NBC) as the series shifts back to New York for game 5. If the Flyers want to pull out a series victory they would be wise to provide their starter with a little more support in the next few contests. Mason cannot be expected to replicate his sterling .974 save percentage, but he should atleast allow his teammates more leeway than Ray Emery (who started games 1 through 3).
- Claude Giroux still has not scored a goal during the 2014 postseason. Despite his play not showing up in the score sheet much during the series, the captain was not invisible during game 4. He played solid two-way hockey and was able to draw a penalty that led to Voracek’s game-winning goal. Still more is expected of the captain going forward. But atleast he made good on his guarantee that the Flyers would tie this series up.
- Speaking of stars not showing up, the Flyers have quite a few of them. We aren’t seeing enough out of Hartnell, Lecavalier, Timonen, Simmonds, and Schenn. Still, with the series tied at 2-2, it’s important to note that we still have not seen the Flyers play their best hockey. If their goaltending can keep them competitive then their deep forward group should be able to grind out a few goals.
- The Flyers aren’t the only club with key players not playing to their potential. Rangers star Rick Nash has been essentially invisible through 4 games. The guy has too much size, skill, and speed to stay silent, however, so the Flyers better be prepared for #61 in game 5.
- Defenseman Nick Grossmann was lost during the second period after he went awkwardly, feet first, into the boards in the Flyers zone. He limped off the ice and missed the rest of the game. It remains to be seen whether or not he will miss Sunday’s game. If he is indeed out then coach Craig Berube must choose between Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gil. Gustafsson is the favorite to fill the void.