When it comes to who to play in net in the NHL, every coach's philosophy has been simple; stick with the hot goalie.
Last week, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel had done just that by sticking with Mathieu Garon after the 32-year-old posted two straight shutouts against Montreal and Atlanta. Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets No. 1 goaltender, was not one to get in the way of Garon's success.
In an interview, Mason stated that Garon deserved to be in net with the way he was playing. Mason recognized that Garon gave the team the best chance to win and thinking about the team over himself, stepped aside and did not give Arniel any reason to think otherwise.
However, after a so-so performance from Garon against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, the 2009 Calder Memorial Trophy winner got another shot in net against the Western Conference's best team, the St. Louis Blues.
Mason didn't let the pressure get to him as he stopped 29 of 30 shots in the Blue Jackets 8-1 dominating victory over the Blues. In a game where all the attention was on the woes of the Blues goaltending team of Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin, Mason made some good saves and built a lot of confidence for himself.
The fact that the Blue Jackets gave Mason a 4-0 cushion before the Blues got their first goal may have helped just a tad in building confidence. The only goal scored by St. Louis should not be blamed on Mason, as it was a combination of a bad turnover in the Blue Jacket zone and the patience of goal scorer BJ Crombeen that pulled Mason out of the net.
Unlike his game against Colorado, Mason looked comfortable in net last night. He looked calm when St. Louis got traffic in front of the net and didn't let up when the Jackets kept building the lead. Although the score does not show it, St. Louis is still the best team in the Western Conference. They were able to get good scoring opportunities and Mason was able to shut the door.
So does this mean that Steve Mason will start to put up better numbers in net this year? Is he back to playing like he did when he won Rookie of the Year? After his performance in last nights game, one would think so.
Mason will take the momentum from this victory into the Blue Jackets next game against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. Mason will get a shot at redemption after letting up four goals in 30 minutes the last time these two teams met. Mason was pulled for Mathieu Garon and last nights game was his first start since then.
After Mason was pulled in that game against Colorado, I wrote an article stating why I thought Mathieu Garon should be the No. 1 goaltender over Steve Mason. However, I do not think that the Blue Jackets look at their goaltending situation like that.
I don't think that they have a set No. 1 and a set No. 2. The coaching staff looks at who is playing well in net lately and they go with the guy who is going to give the team the best opportunity to win.
The Blue Jackets are not like the New Jersey Devils where Martin Brodeur gets a large percentage of the starts. Mathieu Garon will get a good amount of starts in net this year, but Steve Mason will, as well. Columbus is going to go with the hot goalie, as all NHL teams should. If both Mason and Garon can continue to play well, the Jackets should be talking about their second trip to the playoffs in their 10 years as a franchise.
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