Rediscovered

Justin Goldman

2010-02-08

Mason

 

While looking over this week's NHL schedule, I couldn't help but wonder about the different goalie stories and surprises that will pop up before the Olympic break. The fate of a fantasy manager is much more sinister than it is serene, so taking a risk or two could go a long way in getting your pound of flesh before the two week NHL hiatus.

 

One thing I know for sure is that the Olympics, and the consequential condensed schedule, has been a lot more influential on a goalie's rhythm than I ever expected. Injuries have become an issue for some, which has led to some new prospects being uncovered. As you have come to learn, when one window closes, another opens, meaning there's good moves to make if the price is right and you know where to look.

 

And in a week where many managers won't pay as close attention to their teams as usual due to the Olympic buzz, a smooth goalie move could be a perfect way to finish up strong. So keep an eye on the names below, because one of them could mean the difference between winning, losing or landing a playoff spot in your fantasy league.

 

STEVE MASON

 

What a difference a week can make. Mason, who has repeatedly failed to turn around an atrocious sophomore slump, may have been cured with the firing of Ken Hitchcock. In fact, there's a very good chance that the coaching change could have a similar impact to the firing of goalie coach Eli Wilson on Ottawa's Brian Elliott.

 

I credit Mason's success in his last four games (3-1-0, 7 GA, 1 SO) to the fact he's simply enjoying the game again. Under Hitchcock, Mason had succumbed to the pressure of having to play with the label of a failure. It wouldn't be a surprise to learn he took the media's negativity too personally, and after hearing so many times that the cause of the team's problems was inconsistent goaltending, finally stopped believing in himself. With Hitchcock being fired, Mason and the rest of his teammates had finally hit rock-bottom.

 

What I noticed about Mason's struggles under Hitchcock is that he simply stopped competing after a while. Hitchcock is a very demanding coach, so some players are bound to lose their motivation more quickly than others. Mason was under the microscope more than any other Blue Jackets player, mainly because a defensive-minded coach lives and dies by their goaltender. But under Claude Noel, there's no more pressure for Mason to duplicate last year's success and the whole team experiences a rebirth. Now Mason's singular task is to focus on the basics and go from there.

 

In the last two games, Mason has done just that. He's playing higher in his crease with much more consistency through 60 minutes. He also controlled rebounds extremely well and executed butterfly movements with confidence. He had explosive pushes and s