Emery, Mason still locked in goalie competition

Steve Mason is battling with Ray Emery to be the Flyers' No. 1 goalie.
Steve Mason is battling with Ray Emery to be the Flyers' No. 1 goalie. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: September 25, 2013

While goalies Ray Emery and Steve Mason are dueling for the Flyers' starting job in training camp, there are indications that the competition will carry into the regular season.

"I think we have two good goaltenders that will play a lot," coach Peter Laviolette said after a fast-paced camp session Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. "We're going to pick one to start the season and see the other one probably shortly after that. They've both done a real nice job."

The Flyers have three exhibition games left, including Tuesday's at the Wells Fargo Center against the New Jersey Devils, and they open the regular season Oct. 2 against visiting Toronto.

Mason struggled in Columbus last season and then excelled (1.90 goals-against average, .944 save percentage) after being dealt to the Flyers in early April. Emery went 17-1 with a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Both are much better stickhandlers than last year's goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, and that should help zone breakouts and prevent some hits on the defensemen.

"They finished their previous years well," Laviolette said of his goalies. "They've come into camp in great shape. They've looked good playing so far and will continue to push each other for ice time and for starts.

"I think you'll see a goaltending duo that helps this team win hockey games."

Emery, who will turn 31 on Saturday, will start Tuesday against the Devils. He said he will use the remaining practices and preseason games "to get where you want to be . . . so you're in the best possible position when the season starts."

The Ontario native de-emphasized the competition with Mason.

"I don't know if it's really a battle," said Emery, who, like Mason, downplayed the NHL rule that caused a minor reduction in goalie pads this season. "I think it's two guys getting ready to play as well as they can."

Mason, 25, the NHL's top rookie in 2008-09, said the preseason is a good time to develop a rapport with his defensemen.

"I just want to be comfortable by the regular-season opener and make sure everybody has their system down and all the communication with the goaltender becomes second nature," he said.

It's not easy for Laviolette and his coaching staff to get a read on the goalies during a seven-game exhibition season, one in which many of the contests have included numerous players that won't be in the NHL this year.

In two preseason games, Mason has a 4.09 goals-against average and .850 save percentage. Emery has played in just one exhibition game, compiling a 2.77 GAA and a .906 save percentage.

"Last season ended on a high note for myself and I was able to go into the summertime feeling really good about my game," Mason said, adding that the goal of training camp is "to make things come easy again - and that's where we're headed."

When the season starts, the Flyers defense will be much-improved in front of their goaltender, thanks in part to the return of good health to three veterans: Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros.

"It's nice," Grossmann said, "to have a fresh start here."

The Flyers allowed 2.90 goals per game, which was tied for 22d in the 30-team NHL.

"A lot of defensemen got hurt," said Meszaros of the 2013 season, "but it's all behind us now. We're looking ahead and looking toward a new season."

scarchidi@phillynews.com. @BroadStBull



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