Red Wings-Blue Jackets: Steve Mason's Playoff Baptism by Fire, on Ice

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IApril 17, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 16:  Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is beat for a third period goal by Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings as Jan Hejda #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dan Cleary #11 of the Detroit Red Wings close in during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Welcome to playoff hockey, Steve Mason.

Welcome to a world of pucks bouncing off thighs and arms and where your own teammate goes brain dead and flails at a shot with his glove in an ill-designed move.

Mason, the 20-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets goalie, made his playoff debut last night, and in 20 minutes in the middle frame, the kid found out what hockey in the postseason is all about—especially when your opponent is the Detroit Red Wings.

He found out that Tomas Holmstrom is such a force in front of the net that he causes preemptive efforts by the opposition to keep the puck from reaching the netminder.

I don’t know what else to say about Manny Malhotra’s feeble wave at Jonathan Ericsson’s shot from the point in the second period, which resulted in the puck being deflected just enough to flutter over Mason’s shoulder for a 2-1 Red Wings lead. It was Ericsson’s first career playoff goal.

Oh, I know what to say: That’s playoff hockey, Steve-o!

But it’s also what happens when you throw pucks at the net relentlessly and with little regard for the end result—as long as it hits the net somehow, some way.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Because before it hits the net, the puck is liable to hit something else, and that’s how Niklas Kronwall got his first career playoff goal.

Kronwall, after some pitch-and-catch following yet another Red Wings faceoff win, teed up from the point and fired. The waist-high shot brushed off a Blue Jacket’s elbow, and again it was enough to redirect the puck past a beleaguered Mason. 3-1 Detroit.

But it wasn’t all ugly.

Jiri Hudler finished off a brilliant two-on-one with Valtteri Filppula to open the scoring, neatly zipping the puck along the ice before Mason could slide over.

Mason also learned that bloated regular season numbers, when listed beside a 36-year-old veteran netminder of three Stanley Cups (two as starting goalie), mean diddly squat.

Chris Osgood made good on his word—once again. How long before we start listening to the guy?

For much of the season’s second half, Osgood told us that he felt better mentally, felt better physically, and that it would all add up to him playing better.

“One thing I know how to do, is I know how to win playoff games,” Osgood told anyone who would listen back in February.

Not too many folks did, though. And they rarely have in the past, when Osgood has shrugged off poor playoff performances and soft goals and vowed to be better the next time out.

Luckily, Osgood doesn’t much care if we listen to him. He just goes out there and makes us look silly for worrying to begin with.

You won’t find too many hand wringers today, in the wake of Osgood’s strong-as-garlic, 20-save performance, 13 of which were made in the first period, when the proverbial tone was set.

Even Osgood’s evil twin, who was in Detroit for most of the regular season, couldn’t have harmed the Red Wings in the third period, when the Blue Jackets mustered all of two shots on goal.


The Red Wings keep up that kind of a force field around their own goal, then you could bring back Eddie Mio, circa 1986, and the Jackets will still be first round fodder.

OK, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. Eddie Mio? Forgive me.

But you get the idea.

We’ll see how the kid goalie handles things in Game Two. Doubtless, his teammates and coaches will remind him that three of the Red Wings’ four goals he could do nothing about.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter if you can do anything about it as a goalie. Pucks have a funny way of finding the twine in the playoffs. You just have to put it behind you and get ready for the next game. Osgood knows that better than almost anyone minding the net in this postseason.

Sometimes what goes on between a goalie’s ears is just as important as what takes place between the pipes.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!