Steve Mason looked about as unprepared as it gets for the Flyers second game of the season on Saturday, Oct. 10, as the Florida Panthers scored four goals in under seven minutes.
Mason was prepared to get that redemption start against Florida in the home opener on Oct. 12 when he left the team to deal with a personal matter.
Michal Neuvirth filled in as admirably as you can. He recorded back-to-back shutouts against the Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, making 61 saves.
Right away, the thought that a goalie controversy was brewing started up. But when Dave Hakstol announced his goalie for Tuesday night, turning back to Mason, all of those matters were put to rest. They were silenced even more when Mason returned the favor, earning the win in relief for the Flyers on Wednesday in Boston.
There is no goalie controversy in Philadelphia.
This is Steve Mason’s team. It was last season and it will be again this season.
Don’t forget, Mason was the reason the Flyers forced overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the season opener on Oct. 8. He looked to be in midseason form during preseason games. One bad start, especially with a personal matter weighing on his mind, does not unseat him as the team’s primary goaltender.
That said, Neuvirth provides something that the Flyers have not had in the past. They now have stability and durability in their backup goalie.
Simply put last season, Ray Emery wasn’t a go-to guy in a big game, especially if Mason either needed a breather or couldn’t start for whatever reason.
Neuvirth is certainly more of a 1A goalie rather than a back-up, but look no further than the team the Flyers faced on Tuesday to tell you that they’re doing it wrong.
Kari Lehtonen was solid enough to be one of the best backups in the game. He was Dallas’ starter last season instead. So the Stars went out and acquired Antti Niemi to jump into the starter’s role. Niemi went out and carried the Stars to a win on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Good teams build around defense and goaltending. If the Flyers want to view Mason as one of the potential elites in the game, then they can look at Neuvirth and claim to one of the best back-ups in the game as well.
There are worse problems to have. But having the problem doesn’t mean you need to have a controversy to go with it.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.