The Plan B has gone to Plan A, and from the back up to the starter.
At least for the time being.
Ray Emery, re-signed somewhat reluctantly during the offseason, is off to a blazing start in the first month of the season and has at least temporarily unseated Steve Mason as the Philadelphia Flyers startingnetminder.
Emery has won three straight games – against Pittsburgh, Detroit and L.A. – and stopped 95 out of 102 shots during the stretch.
“He’s playing unbelievable,” WayneSimmondssaid after Emery made 38 saves in a 3-2 overtime thriller against the defending champs on Tuesday. “Even when we are not giving him support, he is still giving us chances to win games. It’s great when you can rely on both goalies and know that they are going to give us their best effort every night.”
Signed last season to a one-year deal, Emery was expected to compete with Mason for the starting job. After Mason won the role in training camp, retained it during the season and was rewarded with a three-year contract, it was expected that Emery’s camp and the organization were going to amicably part ways this summer.
However, when no other better option presented itself or others fell through, the Flyers turned back to the stable Emery. And GM RonHextall’sdecision looks like a coup through the first nine games of the season.
As Mason is winless in five games and searching for the confidence he played with in the final four games of last year’s playoff series with the Rangers, Emery has opened the year 4-0-1 with a 2.44 goals against and .924 save percentage.
“It feels good but I take it game by game,” Emery said. “I enjoy being in there and it’s nice to contribute and get some points as well.”
The Flyers have six in the last three games thanks primarily to Emery.
After holding off the Penguins last Thursday, he kept the Flyers in the game last Saturday against the Red Wings until the team woke up midway through the second period. Then Emery came up with big save after big save all night against the Kings and ended with 38.
What troubled him last season was his lack of speed going east and west in goal, but this season Emery has been noticeably quicker pipe-to-pipe.
“The body feels better and when you hear criticism you want to work on that area,” Emery said. “I just try to continue to work on those things.”
Barring a mental collapse by Mason for the rest of the year, he will likely resume his role as the Flyers No. 1 goalie. Until Mason does, though, Emery has proven he is more than capable of shouldering the load and serving as Plan A and as the starter.
“He’s been huge,” Jakub Voracek said. “He is an experienced goalie and reads the play very well. He’s been our best player so far.”