VOORHEES -- If Steve Mason wanted to walk into the Flyers locker room and recreate a scene from Captain Phillips by contorting his index and middle finger into a V-shape motioning from his eyes to his teammates and utter the words, “Look at me, I’m the captain now,” he rightfully could.
With Michal Neuvirth hitting the shelf for a minimum of four weeks, this is Mason’s ship now.
His general manager even says so.
“The way our schedule is laid out, if Mase plays the way he can play, there’s the option to run with him,” said Ron Hextall during Monday’s practice.
Hextall added that, “Mase was really good last game. Let’s see where this goes with Mase. Mase was a really good goalie for a long time. Neuvy has been a good goalie as well, but because they’re in a little bit of a funk and we’re in a little bit of funk, you don’t quit on them. You don’t go away from them. You stick with them.”
It hasn’t been the prettiest of starts for the 6-foot-4 goaltender who is sporting a 3-5 record with a 3.41 GAA and a save percentage that would only earn a B in high school (.880).
Yet, that’s behind now as he won’t have to look over his shoulder for a few weeks with the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the crease.
“Right now Mase is coming off a good performance and if [being the guy for now] simplifies his preparation a bit, that’s a good thing,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “He just needs to build off what he did a couple of days ago.”
Anthony Stolarz was recalled (for the seventh time in his young career) from Lehigh Valley prior to practice. If Neuvirth misses exactly four weeks, that would equate to approximately 16 games. Would Mason really start all 16 of those contests, six of which coming in the form of back-to-backs?
“You can never answer those questions,” Hextall said. “It never goes the way you map it out. Anthony has done a good job with the Phantoms. He’s continued to get better. We’ll see where it goes.”
The GM said the Flyers aren’t here to try out players just for the sake of doing so, “we’re in the business of winning games.” He puts that onos on Hakstol, believing he’ll make the best decision in putting together the best lineup each night.
After practice, Hakstol said it’s very likely Stolarz will get some action with Neuvirth out. It’ll just be matter of deciding when is the best time to throw him out there for his career start.
“I’m just taking it day by day,” Stolarz said. “I’m pretty eager. I’ve been around the guys a lot and have gotten to know them, and being around this atmosphere, you kind of want to contribute to the team.”
Back to Mason and what this opportunity means for him. With Neuvirth out, Mason has all the opportunity in the world to prove why he deserves a new contract and why he deserves to be the guy the rest of the way.
Mason sent his counterpart a text the other night, knowing just how disappointing an injury can be for a goalie. He knows that these situations are a part of the game, though, and is happy for the chance “to play some hockey.”
“There’s been points in my career where I’ve played a lot of hockey, towards the end of last season is the perfect example,” Mason said. “Most goalies live for it.”