Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The St. Louis Blues and the Other Mason

The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the verge of qualifying for the NHL playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. A major factor in their improvement has certainly been their goaltender and Rookie of the Year candidate Steve Mason. However, since January one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference has been the St. Louis Blues. As the Blues make their own playoff push and the young stars begin to shine, one story in St. Louis this season is the other Mason; thirty-two year old Chris Mason.

The first Blues goalie to post a five game winning streak since Fred Brathwaite in the 2002-03 season, Mason has continued to establish himself as a legitimate number one goalie in the league. Having played in 55 games this season, he has a 25-21-7 win/loss record, 5 shutouts, a 2.48 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Acquired from Nashville in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in 2008, Head Coach Andy Murray is getting full value from Mason and his $3 million per year contract.

The Red Deer, Alberta native was a fifth round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1995 but Mason spent several years in the IHL and AHL before seeing regular playing time in the NHL with Nashville in 2006. In 190 career NHL games, he has a 83-64-1-18 record, a 2.57 GAA and a .913 save percentage. In his first season with St. Louis, Mason has established career highs for wins and games played and has brought stability in nets to a team that has used five goaltenders this season (Mason, Manny Legace - 29 games played, Ben Bishop - 6 gp, Marek Schwarz - 2 gp, and current back-up Chris Holt - 1 gp). Making Mason's overall numbers more impressive is the fact he was 3-13-1 in his first 18 games with the Blues.

With only two games remaining for the Blues - Friday at home versus Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets and Sunday in Colorado against the Avalanche, their destiny is truly in their own hands. After 80 games, St. Louis has a 39-31-10 record and are 8th in the Western Conference with 88 points; the Anaheim Ducks are 7th (also with 88 points), Nashville and Minnesota are chasing the pack with 86 and 85 points. The Blue Jackets play in Chicago this evening (Wednesday) and a loss to the Blackhawks could make Friday's match-up between Columbus and the Blues a battle for 6th place in the West. The Blues are 3-1-1 against Columbus this season.

Chris Mason's only playoff appearance was a first round loss to the San Jose Sharks while with Nashville in 2006. After winning game 1 for the Predators, the Sharks won four straight to take the series. While Mason would love the chance to avenge the loss, moving up the standings and avoiding the NHL's best team in the regular season could help the Blues continue their winning ways into the playoffs. Have a great sports day everyone.

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