Thanks in large part to the many folks on twitter throwing Steve Mason under the bus over the last couple games, I thought it might be worth going back to review each of the goals scored to see exactly who is worth blaming. There does seem to be a fair assessment that Mason is not exactly an 'All-star' goalie (which is fine, he's not), but the disconnect seems to be on what defines a goalie as an all-star, a solid goaltender, and a hopefully sieve. So without further adieu, let's look at the goals scored against the Blue Jackets in Dallas.
Goal 1 :: Bredan Morrow
Midway through the first period, with Columbus carrying a 1-0 lead, Mike Ribeiro threads the needle, sending a pass through two Columbus defenders and finding a wide open Brendan Morrow who finishes on the one timer.
Scott Arniel said it very well after the game. Cross crease one-timer goals are seen once every fifteen games or so for the average team, and they gave up THREE of them in one game. This mental lapse by the Columbus defense is flat out what loses teams hockey games, and something I personally don't expect to see on the "Mason saves" highlight reel. On this specific play, Savard chases Ribeiro behind the net essentially taking himself out of the play, and Martinek is covering the blue paint on the short side of this specific play. It leaves Morrow wide open to hammer home the one-timer. Fault: Defense, 100%.
Goal 2 :: Loui Eriksson
The puck is carried around the net by Steve Ott, who fires a pass in front of the similar to the first goal, finding the stick of Loui Eriksson who gets just enough of the puck to get it through Steve Mason.
Covering on the pass was Martinek, who watched Ott go beyond the net, and decide to leave the front of the net probably later than he should have, leaving him in dead ice covering nothing. Covering the pass was Marc Methot, who seemed to be scrambling back to get Eriksson after Martinek's decision to move away from the net. Again, these passes should never be allowed to make it through to players, and I am once again putting pretty much all of the blame on the Jackets defense. Fault: 90% Defense, 10% Mason.
Goal 3 :: Sheldon Souray
Ribeiro sends a backhand pass to the point, where Sheldon Souray is waiting. He sets, loads, and fires a knuckler that seems to change directions part way to the net, hitting the top of the net and going in.
I know this may be hard for some to agree with, and that's fine, but I am not going to put this entirely on Mason. So far this season we have watched as pucks are deflected perflectly to the upper 90, far post, off feet and in, etc, etc. In this case, these fluttering pucks are just about as bad as a tip. What I DO want to point out, is that while Vermette (the center) chases around Ribeiro, RJ Umberger (the winger) leaves the top faceoff circle (covering the pass) and moves into the middle slot (I assume to cover for Vermette who is all over the place). This leaves Souray wide open, with plenty of time to load up a cannon. Fault: Bad Coverage 50%, Mason 25%, bad luck 25%.
Goal 4 :: Michael Ryder
Ribeiro sends a pass to Morrow, who is near the goal line about 10 feet away from the net. He then sends a pass through Clitsome to Ryder, who one times the puck off the near post and in.
Powerplay goals are hard to dissect, especially when you downplay coverage quality, but Clitsome has to be better. He is a good couple feet high as the pass is received by Morrow, and does little to stop Ryder from scoring. This is once again the defensive breakdowns that lead to goals on every single goalie in the NHL, not just Mason. I would like to see Mason with a bit more of an active stick, but that's a dangerous game to play as teams begin to try deflecting the puck off the goalie and in. Fault: Defense 90%, Mason 10%.
As you can see, the misguided hatred towards Mason has become silly. Of the four goals scored on him, none of them were normal, textbook saves that he has been making all year long. They were one timers from down low and a freak knuckler that I am still trying to figure out how it went in. While I can understand the frustration of most Blue Jackets fans (trust me, I waited a day to post anything) I think it's time to start pointing the finger in the right direction, not just at the guy who is the easiest to blame.
The bottom line here, is that if the defense were doing what needed to be done, that game could have very well been a win for the Jackets.
Carry the Flag.