One Reason for Steve Mason's Recent Dominance? His New Skates
Steve Mason has been crushing it over the Flyers’ nine-game winning streak and for the better part of a month. What might be some reasons? Well, for starters, he doesn’t have injured Michal Neuvirth breathing down his neck since the middle of November. But there was another, more subtle change made around the same time that might be a bigger contributor to Mason’s recent success.
Mason has switched to wearing the Bauer 1S skates, which Henrik Lundqvist had credited for his success, and some inside the building say he has raved about them.
This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill, placebo effect equipment tweak that introduces more breathability and moisture-wicking hoodity. There’s an actual, noticeable change in the 1Ss– they remove the hard plastic cowling that has long protected goaltenders’ feet. Here, look:
There’s no longer a need for the cowling since goaltending styles have changed to the butterfly, which makes protection on the inside of a goalie’s leg or foot pointless since it’s rarely, if ever, open to the puck… unlike the style of a certain someone we know:
The new Bauer Supreme 1S goalie skate is finally available at retail stores today, giving goaltenders everywhere the same advantages that NHL stars like Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask have enjoyed all season: a lighter, cowling-free skate that significantly improves attack angle and makes it easier and faster to quickly grab a push edge and move laterally.
Bauer accomplished the improved attack angle by reinforcing the toe cap and removing the white plastic cowling that has traditionally wrapped around the front of goalie skates, thinning out the profile of the skate to make it easier for goalies to dig their blade in from more extreme angles before the inside edge of the skate makes contact with the ice, which can cause them to lose that edge and slip out. By removing the cowling, which was the first point of contact before, goalies are able to hold an edge from a lower, wider stance and still be able to push with power.
Previously, Bauer had tried to reduce the width of the cowling by cutting out a portion of it along the inside of the foot. Here’s what it looked like on a pair of skates similar to what Mason used to wear:
Still not ideal.
Mason had been wearing a version like this:
Photo credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
So when did he make the change?
Digging through pictures, it looks like the last time Mason wore his old skates was on November 8, in a shootout loss to the Red Wings:
On November 11, however, Mason switched to the new 1Ss against the Maple Leafs:
Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
He gave up six goals. But consider it the breaking in period, because Mason has been fantastic since. In 14 games, he has a save percentage of .923 and is 10-3-1. He had an .888 save percentage and was 2-4-2 in the eight games prior to making the switch.
Can’t see the line, can you Russ?
Here are some of the things being said about Mason since switching to the new skates:
For Mason, it was not only his fifth consecutive win, which equals a career high, but also the fifth straight game that he’s surrendered no more than two goals.
“Biggest thing is the saves we got, no doubt about that,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought Mase, it was one of those nights where he was our best player.”
“He’s been amazing,” Jakub Voracek said. “He’s had a lot of streaks like this through his career. Last five, six games, he’s been outstanding. Last year he pushed us to the playoffs, he was outstanding. When he got traded here, he was outstanding. It’s good to see him play like that.”
Mason led the NHL with four wins in four outings, compiling a 1.71 goals-against average and .945 save percentage to propel the Flyers (14-10-3, 31 points) into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. He made a season-high 45 saves – and turned aside eight-of-nine shootout attempts – in a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins Nov. 29. Mason then posted 19 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators Dec. 1 before collecting back-to-back weekend victories: 26 saves in a 3-1 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks Dec. 3 and 30 saves in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators Dec. 4. The 28-year-old Oakville, Ont., native owns a 9-8-3 record with a 2.76 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 21 appearances this season. His four-game winning streak is one shy of his career high, established Dec. 17-30, 2013 (5-0-0).
Steve Mason obviously had a slow start to his season, and it’s a big reason why the Philadelphia Flyers had a slow start. After all, bad goaltending is a chief reason why the team remains near the basement in the goals against category, and it’s the reason that until last night, the Flyers were out of a playoff spot.
But Mason has shown signs of turning things around, and amidst this five-game Flyers winning streak, he’s been a big reason for the team’s success. As such, the NHL named him their first star of the week for the week ending yesterday, December 4.
The skate change is a small one, to be sure. Mason will likely regress to the mean at some point, but it’s probably not entirely coincidental that he has been arguably the best goalie in league over the past three weeks since switching skates. It’s no surprise the lazy beat writers never picked up on this.