EDMONTON, Alberta — It has been said that 90 percent of our daily communication is nonverbal, comprised mostly of body language.
With that in mind, try to picture this situation - without the benefit of the conversation - and envision how it played out deep inside the bowels of Rexall Place about 15 minutes after the Flyers' 5-4 overtime loss to Edmonton:
Craig Berube briskly walked toward the team's bus, parked inside the arena, where goaltender Steve Mason was waiting near the door of the bus.
Mason attempted to engage in conversation with Berube, who instead shoved his briefcase into a storage compartment under the bus and turned and walked away, leaving Mason standing there.
The entire sequence last less than 15 seconds, but if body language does indeed account for the bulk of our communication, it said just about everything to this reporter watching from afar.
The Flyers' three-ringed goaltending circus took another strange swing on Saturday night when Mason notified the coaching staff following warmups that he wouldn't be able to start against the Oilers. His name was already penciled into the lineup sheet.
That sudden move - after Mason appeared to be just fine at the morning skate - came just two nights after he was absurdly pulled from an inconsequential game when his second goal against came on a shot he couldn't even see through a screen.
"I just wasn't feeling well throughout the afternoon and thought we'd give it a try using warmups," Mason said. "I tried it in warmup. My goal was to go. I just didn't feel like I was going to be well enough to be at my best."
Mason could not say whether it was the flu, a stomach illness, or he ate something strange for lunch.
"I'm not a doctor," Mason quipped. "I don't know."
Here's where the situation gets even more strange: Mason said he felt ill during the afternoon, but Berube said he wasn't told until the "last second."
Emery, pressed into duty, said Mason didn't say a word during warmup that would be the case. The next inkling came right before the national anthems, when Ray Emery led the Flyers onto the ice. Mason wasn't well enough to even be on the bench during the first period.
Mason said he watched the first period from the locker room.
"I took some time during the first period to try and feel better," Mason said.
Just about everything that occurred was so different than what played out over the previous 73 games.
For one, Mason finally admitted that he wasn't well enough to play, something he didn't express to the coaching staff through his knee injuries
Secondly, the broken line of communication flies in the face of everything Mason diplomatically said on Friday afternoon in Edmonton, about his supposedly "solid" relationship with Berube.
Finally, during a brutal outing by Emery, Berube didn't feel any need to go to Mason. Emery fought the puck all night, allowing four goals on his first 12 shots, which turned a 3-1 Flyers lead into a 4-3 deficit in a span of 4 minutes and 56 seconds.
On any other night, like Thursday in Calgary, Berube would've made a change already. He didn't even look toward Mason, who was back on the bench to start the second period - something he didn't hesitate to do on Feb. 26 in Toronto, when he asked Mason replace Rob Zepp when he was still recuperating from Feb. 10 knee surgery.
Why not again?
"No," Berube said when asked if he thought of making a change. "He felt sick."
Whatever happened to Berube's "if he's ready to backup, I'm going to play him" mantra from January and February?
One of three things may have happened Saturday night while Emery coughed up the lead: either Berube did a total '180' reversal in the last few weeks since the departure of Jeff Reese (least likely); Berube was resigned to the irrelevance of a late March contest between the No. 23 and No. 28 teams (unlikely); or Berube was so bothered by Mason's late self-scratching that he wasn't going to go back to him unless Emery was injured (most plausible).
Why else would Berube suddenly show restraint when it comes to his goaltenders?
All that remained were Berube's words about about the "difficult situation" thrust on Emery. Surely, the setup was not ideal, but Emery was asked to face the NHL's 26th-ranked offense after completing a 16-minute warmup session. He may not have faced the same number of shots as a designated starter, but it was still a normal warmup. He was asked to do worse on Thursday against the Flames.
"It's hard, definitely," Berube said. "You know, your mindset is that you're not playing and then you've got to get everything together real quickly. It was a tough situation for him."
Edmonton scored three out of their five goals - including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' overtime winner - on shots that handcuffed Emery, causing the puck to plop right in front of a waiting Oiler.
When asked if he struggled with rebounds more than usual, Emery curtly replied: "No."
The Flyers limped home from Edmonton with an 0-2-2 skid through Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary, making this not even the first time they've lost nine consecutive (0-5-4) road games this season. They also did it from Oct. 30 through Dec. 3 (0-7-2).
Truly, dysfunction abound - another head-scratching night in a season full of them.
"It's pretty disappointing," Mason said. "Going 0-for-4 is not good. I thought we had an opportunity tonight. We just weren't good enough."
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