Craig Ramsay told Chris Vivlamore yesterday that he was planning on rotating goaltenders for the rest of the season... Mason, Pavs, and so on.
"Right now it would be nice if we just alternated," Ramsay said Thursday. "I want to give everybody a chance to play. I think that is really important right now that everybody feels part of it and we continue to build that team atmosphere."
I'm not an NHL coach obviously, but excuse me as I raise an eyebrow to that philosophy. Sure, the Thrashers are out of the playoff race, so right now they could call up the entire Gladiators team and it really wouldn't make much difference, but isn't the job of the coach to put the best possible line-up out there every night? Isn't the job of the team to actually win? Regardless of if you're in the tank camp or the "play for pride" camp, you can't deny that the first and foremost goal of any hockey team is to not lose.
Ondrej Pavelec has been the better of the two goaltenders for a majority of the season statistically, but one can argue that he has pulled a sort of Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde. He was amazing the first half of the season, and the second half he's had some extraordinarily glaring lapses in ability. He's young, and he's still growing, so the fluke goals and the misplays, while costly, could be expected. But... they're still costly. The team hasn't been playing well, and he hasn't particularly helped his own cause.
Mason recently has been keeping the team in games. His performance last night was stellar, he was good in the shootout against the Senators (though pedestrian again in net against them), played solid against the Islanders, and held the Vancouver Canucks to just two goals, completely giving the team a chance to get back into the game. The issue with Mason recently hasn't been with him per se, but the inability of the team to back him up. One goal against Philly? One against Vancouver? That's the best the offense can do? One wrong move by a defenseman on a penalty kill last night, and all of Mason's saves would have been for naught.
I admit Chris Mason has taken a severe step backwards this season, though I maintain it's because a) he's not used to all of the Eastern Conference teams yet and b) the Thrashers allow significantly more high percentage shots on goal than the Blues or Predators did when Mason was in net for them. But Mason has some significant strong points. He knows when it's go-time and when the performances are clutch - he performs best under pressure, and best when he's relied upon. Ondrej Pavelec isn't quite old enough for that kind of weight yet. As the season's worn on, it's become apparent.
Finally, how do you bench Mason after a shutout against the best team in the Eastern Conference? How do you go to Boston tomorrow and say "Mason, that was great, but instead of having you build on that game, we're going to put Ondrej here in. You'll start against the Preds." You might as well say "Your abilities are interchangeable, and we're not really playing for anything, so we're switching out." The problem is that they're not interchangeable.