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Thursday, December 18, 2008
Mason stays busy but productive


Goaltender Steve Mason has gotten it done at every level of his junior hockey career and in international tournaments, and now he's getting the job done in the NHL.

Dominating the opposition is nothing new to this fresh-faced 20-year-old, so his early success in Columbus shouldn't come as a surprise. What is a bit surprising is that he is making it look so easy against some of the best teams in the NHL. Take Wednesday night, for example. Mason strolls onto the ice and stops 47 of 48 shots against the best team in the league as the Blue Jackets defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1. Yes, the same Sharks team that has set the record as the fastest club to 50 points in a season.

"Both goaltenders were good, and our guy was great," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters after the game. "To beat teams like that, we're going to need our goaltender to be our best player, and he was."

Steve Mason
Steve Mason has quietly had an amazing season.
Mason currently has the lowest goals-against average in the NHL at 1.91, just ahead of Tim Thomas, yet is available in more than 40 percent of ESPN standard leagues. It's not like he hasn't been busy, either; the Blue Jackets have surrendered an average of 27.4 shots per game in Mason's 15 starts this season. "Every time you are getting a lot of shots like that, you don't really have a chance to get cold out there," Mason said in an interview with NHL.com. "I like getting a lot of shots. It keeps you sharp, and the results show."

Mason is front and center in what could be considered the new wave of goaltending talent in the league. Top-rated prospects like Pekka Rinne, Ondrej Pavelec and Cory Schneider have all played significant minutes, but none has proved to be as capable of leading a team right now as Mason.

What are the prospects of Mason continuing his solid play through the rest of the season? Should you sell high? I certainly am not willing to do so, as a Mason owner in a deeper league. While a goalie such as Schneider has Roberto Luongo on the same roster, Mason has to compete for a job against only Pascal Leclaire. That's right, the same Pascal Leclaire who, although talented, has never quite lived up to his eighth overall selection in the 2001 draft and has been somewhat injury-plagued in his young career. I look at this tandem almost like the Ryan Miller/Martin Biron duo in Buffalo a few years ago. Miller quickly overtook the highly touted Biron, and the latter was eventually traded away.

At 59 percent ownership, Mason is available in far too many leagues and should be owned in every format.

Ice Chips

Marian Gaborik owners, rejoice! The oft-injured Wild forward returned to the lineup Wednesday for only his third game of the season and was as productive as ever. He had a goal and an assist in his return to the ice. Feel free to activate him in every format. … Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau is set to reunite the line of Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Kovalev on Thursday night, according to TSN. This of course was the line that led Montreal to a first-place showing in the Eastern Conference last season but for the most part has disappointed this year. The three will eventually find their old chemistry and begin to produce at the level expected of them. … Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be on the ice for the first time in a month Thursday night. Since he is coming back from a groin injury, expect the Penguins to ease him back into their lineup, starting two of four games spanning the next six nights. … Scott Clemmensen earned his ninth win in 11 starts as he stopped 23 shots en route to a 5-3 win over Buffalo. He has become a valuable fantasy option in the wake of Martin Brodeur's injury, and has temporarily calmed any talk of a trade for a goaltender in New Jersey. … Patrik Elias has extended his point streak to eight games with two assists Wednesday. … Todd Bertuzzi's overtime goal ended the rugged forward's 19-game scoring drought. He now has eight goals on the season. … The Rangers and their 22 wins are defying logic. Generally you can't succeed with a horrible power-play unit, but the Rangers are proving that theory wrong. They won again Wednesday night but are mired in a 3-for-40 slump with the man advantage. … Well, we thought it was nearly over, but it looks as if the Mats Sundin saga will drag on a few days longer. In an interview with Toronto radio station AM 640, Sundin's agent said the decision might not be coming until the weekend.