Despite having his busiest night of the year, Chris Mason was untouchable tonight.
In his first game back in Nashville since the Preds traded him in favor of Dan Ellis, Mason made 47 saves, a number of them very impressive, and two more in the shootout to record an extremely unlikely but completely deserved clean sheet and 1-0 win.
It was a hell of a homecoming for Mason, but not so much the rest of his team, which was held to just 17 shots and was incredibly lucky to escape with two points. The attack was listless and the transition game was ineffective. The defense? Non-existent, as you’d expect in a 47-shot game in which Nashville only had five power play opportunities. Shots by period for the Preds were 15 in the first, 12 in the second, 11 in the third and NINE in OT. The fact that Mason not only shut them out but didn’t allow six is amazing.
Go have a look at the highlights. There are at least four shots that would have gone in had Mason not been playing out of his mind. After the game, Mason made sure to credit his defense for blocking “a ton of shots” but in reality they blocked two fewer than Nashville (16-14). In all, the Predators attempted 70 shots (six more either went wide and THREE hit the post), so you can’t exactly say the Blues’ D did too good of a job in the “limiting chances” department.
They say a goalie has to take his defense out to dinner when he gets a shutout. The entire team should take Mason out for this one. The amount of work he had to do was ridiculous.
Think the Preds let the wrong goalie go? Even though Ellis is younger by far and led the league in goals-against average last year, his numbers this year have been pretty bad. Even with tonight’s “shutout” (not that he’ll get credit for it), he’s got a .898 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against that’s up 56 points from last year’s total that paced the league. The fact that he’s 8-9-2 is a small miracle considering he’s given up four or more goals seven times and got the hook after giving up three on 19 against Calgary a couple weeks ago in another.
Mason, who has an awful record at 2-5-0, looks much better by comparison with a GAA of 2.33 (ninth in the league) and a save percentage of .927 (sixth) in limited action. He started out badly with 14 goals allowed in his first four games, but since then he has allowed two in three starts, and he got the loss in one of those.
Maybe it’s a salary issue. Mason makes $3 million against the cap compared to Ellis’ $1.75 million, but I have to imagine the upgrade in stats would be worth that much.
Also, and as an aside, those new Blues jerseys are pure class.
Also also, how awesome is this picture?
Atlanta 6, Toronto 3
This was a particularly nasty game. You know it’s bad when even Ilya Kovalchuk gets in a fight. Lots of elbows, lots of cheap shots and, of course, lots of goals. Eight different guys scored, with Todd White being the only player to net two, and 14 different guys took penalties. Lee Stempniak started on the third line but quickly earned a spot alongside Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan on the second, and that’s where he picked up his first point (an assist) with the Leafs. Also, Jeff Finger scored, which in and of itself is super-weird.
Calgary 6, Los Angeles 2
Don’t be fooled, this game was nasty too. A total of 12 different guys took penalties here, and between Sean O’Donnell, Raistis Ivanans and a few others, the Kings gave Calgary 11 power plays, of which two were converted by the Flames. Could’ve been a lot more though as the Flames’ power play units moved the puck well and got a ton of good looks all night. Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist to run his season total to 26 points in 22 games, and both Curtis Glencross (1g, 2a) and Craig Conroy (3a) had three-point nights. Erik Ersberg gave up four goals on 18 shots and, true to his LaBarbera-y ways, Jason LaBarbera gave up another one on the first shot he faced.