Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Welcome Back Steve Mason

Steve Mason made his return from injury last night helping the Columbus Blue Jackets stun the Vancouver Canucks with a shootout victory to win Tuesday night’s game 2-1 at Nationwide Arena.
Mason looked sharp in his return stopping 31 of 32 shots faced and posting a .968 SV% for the victory over the red hot Canucks, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. 
It seems to be the new trend of the Blue Jackets to dominate the first period, and they did just that against the Canucks at both ends of the rink, doubling them in shots 10-5 and earning a 1-0 lead after the first.  In the closing seconds of a four-on-three man advantage James Wisniewski fired a wrist shot on net where Jeff Carter was parked in front of Roberto Luongo.  Carter followed up the rebound beating Luongo, for his sixth of the season and third in as many games.
After a scoreless second period, where the Canucks outshot the Blue Jackets 9-1 (also becoming a common trend), the Canucks tied the game eight minutes into the third.  After some pressure from Chris Higgins, and a questionable no-call trip of Rick Nash, Maxim Lapierre tied the game beating Mason short side.
Overtime solved nothing so the Blue Jackets were off to their sixth shootout of the season:
     Columbus Blue Jackets (3)                      Vancouver Canucks (1)
1.       Mark Letestu - Goal                        Cody Hodgson - Save
2.       Rick Nash - Goal                             Alexandre Burrows - Goal
3.       James Wisniewski - Goal                 N/A
Despite all the “Mason Haters” out there, tonight marked the 23-year old goalie’s return after sitting out the past 12 games due to injury, as well as tremendous play from Curtis Sanford. 
Sanford, who went 5-4-3, was good enough to help the Blue Jackets earn points in eight of the past 12 games.
Mason looked calm and poised between the pipes on Tuesday night.  His positioning in the crease was solid, not straying too far outside the blue paint, but always challenging every shot that was thrown at him.  If shot got to him, Mason’s rebound control was solid, smothering most and pushing others away from the front of the net.  In short, he looked like a kid booming with confidence.
Is this the resurrection of Steve Mason former Calder winner?
I would hate to get ahead of myself and say that yes, it is.  It was a positive game in the right direction for Mason as an individual on a team that looked to lack confidence in the net minder, and that’s really all that should be taken from it. 
The players worked hard to help Mason out, playing with energy, minimizing defensive end turnovers and getting in the shot lanes.  Something that prior to Mason’s injury, one could argue, was missing.
With Sanford lifting the weight of a franchise off of Mason’s shoulders, head coach Scott Arniel may soon have the luxury of 1A/1B tandem that can help win an organization hockey games on a nightly basis.
The Blue Jackets have earned three of a possible six points during a five-game home stand and look to add to that with games this Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.   

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