The Rookie Mason Making Waves

Article from the Columbus Dispatch paper regarding rookie goalie Steve Mason makes several good points.

First, Mason should be the favorite for the NHL Calder Trophy awarded to the Rookie of the Year. Of course there is 1/2 the season to play but considering Mason’s numbers as of today (see below), hard to look past a rookie who leads the NHL in all major goaltending categories. Vezina has to be considered as well.


A few points quoted from the article younger goalies should understand-

1. Mason is quoted as saying “I try not to look at the numbers. I look at them every once in a while, but that can be a bad thing. I just want to keep working hard.”

Commentary – too many young goalies (Squirt-age through Midgets) get too caught-up in their stats which directs focus away from where it really should be pinpointed: doing whatever it takes to help the team win the game. Too many goalies worry about their own statistical numbers (goals against, save percentage) helping to ensure their stats will actually get worse than better.

Why is this a problem?

Two main reasons.

First, the goaltender must be the consummate teammate and always put the team above all else. Teammates need to know the goalie values his teammates and their success (as a team) before himself. Why? It helps reinforce the team-first mentality for the entire team. As well, the skaters will gain respect for the goalie and up their level of play when he is in net (they do not want to see the goalie take a loss). Playing with a team-first mentallity, in the end, will ironically improve the goalie’s stats since the entire team is helping the goalie.

Second, goalies who pay particular attention to their own stats tend to struggle more mentally when they hit rough spots. When a goalie knows he has a 2.00 goals against average and then hits a rough spot where he is allowing 4 goals against for a few games, the goalie tends to question his ability regardless of whether the team is winning or not. Questioning ability begins a downward mental cycle which leads to poorer performance.

When should a goalie begin to worry about his personal stats? The day he signs his pro contract! Then, stats matter.


2. Kelly Hrudey, who played in the NHL for 14 years observed, “Mason is one of these goaltenders who is all about technique but only to a certain point. Like Loungo and Kiprusoff, at some point he is totally willing to abandon his technique and make a save in any way possible.”

Commentary – one of the great advances in goaltending in the last 15 years is the development of particular goalie technique/tactic, such as the “butterfly.” Goalies practice their techniques/tactic for countless hours and it greatly improves their ability to play the position.

One problem exists. The dedication to countless hours of practicing a particular technique leads to, for many, robot goalies who cannot think outside their training. They have no answer (i.e. save movement) when a situation occurs they are unfamiliar with. They are not creative enough to make certain saves (for the best in creativity in saves, see Mason while in junior posted a few times on this blog – and their performance suffers.

Goalies need to practice being outside of their comfort zone (i.e. their technique) so they can adapt to anything occuring in a game. They need to be creative while at practice and make saves in and out of their normal style. Using mental rehearse techniques while off-ice is vital as well.

Goalies who learn to ignore their stats, play with team-first mentality. and think outside their style of play will improve greatly and enjoy a better career.


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