Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings:Mason’s Maturity, New Pads a No-Go, Post-Practice Updates

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MASON’S MATURITY SHINED IN WIN AGAINST WINNIPEG

There is a good reason why young goaltenders generally take longer to develop than their counterparts who play forward or defense. Being a consistently successful goaltender, especially at the NHL level, requires not only assembling an array of different physical components like a jigsaw puzzle but also clearing mental and emotional hurdles.

When Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was a young player in the National Hockey League — despite winning the Calder Trophy in his rookie season — he was not yet ready to succeed for the long term.

“I was not mature yet as a goaltender or as a person,” Mason said after the Flyers practice at the Skate Zone on Friday afternoon. “I would let a bad goal or even just an early goal bother me. For the next 10 minutes, that’s all that would be in head when the play was going on. If I had a bad game, I would beat myself up afterwards.”

Thursday night’s game between the Flyers and Winnipeg Jets was a perfect case in point of how Mason, now 26, has blossomed into a mature NHL goaltender over the last couple years.

The Jets scored a pair of early goals against him. Neither one was a soft goal but the two plays — a rebound off a deflected shot and a screened shot — were ones where Mason clearly felt he could have done something a little better or differently. The bottom line was that two pucks were past him, the Flyers had taken and lost a pair of leads, and there was still 43 minutes left to play.

“Maybe when I was younger, that would have been a five-goal game instead of two,” Mason noted.

Mason was unflappable. He finished the night with 36 saves on 38 shots, including stops on all 24 shots he faced after the first period. It was a very impressive performance that was the mark of a confident and mature goaltender as well as a physically talented one.

After every game, the goaltender and Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese discuss what happened on the ice that night. Mason said that he and Reese talked last night about how the game against Winnipeg was a good case of point of a mental plateau the goaltender has obtained through years of work, self-critique and turning considerable adversity into valuable learning experiences.

The best part: Mason is only just entering what should be his prime years in the NHL if he stays healthy. He’s assembled a pretty consistent body of work now in Philadelphia that will soon reach two calendar years and parts of three seasons. While Mason may still not get enough respect from some corners of NHL media and fandom, his teammates and opponents alike consider him the real deal.

In the meantime, Mason still very much has the mindset of a goalie. He likes things to be just so.

At Friday’s practice, he tried out a brand new set of leg pads, blocker and glove in a retro caramel color rather than his usual white set. The pads themselves are customized to the same fit and feel as the white ones.

Nevertheless, Mason did not like the new pads. Why? He noticed the different color in his peripheral vision.

“It was too much color for me,” he said. “The white just kind of blends into everything.”

Mason had originally considering giving the new retro-look pads a try in Saturday’s game against Toronto, in conjunction with the Flyers’ third jersey. After using the new ones at practice today, he decided to go with his usual white pads but did say he will probably give the new ones another try or two in future practices.

Before talking to the media, Mason and teammate Michael Del Zotto chatted about how the pads looked to the shooter. Del Zotto said the caramel pads made Mason look a little taller but skinnier to him in the net.

The bet here is that the retro pads never see the light of day — or at least the glare of the arena lights — on a game night.

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*************** POST-PRACTICE QUICK HITS

* Flyers rookie center Scott Laughton participated in practice but is not yet ready to return to the lineup. Michael Raffl (illness) remained off the ice. The Flyers game night forward line combinations will remain the same as the last two games.

* Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann’s status for Saturday’s game is “up the air,” according to Craig Berube. The coach said Grossmann looked and felt good in practice. Grossmann will likely be a game-day decision after Saturday’s morning skate (which will be held in Voorhees rather than the Wells Fargo Center). If he plays, Carlo Colaiacovo will likely be scratched.

* On Saturday, the suspended Zac Rinaldo will serve the third match of his eight-game banishment by the NHL. He skated as an extra player on Friday.