Well, the season is over. And boy, is it disappointing. But there's also something to be excited about. As a fan, I'm optimistic because I know we have a core of good, young players - including two great goalies - that will continue to develop going into next season.
Mason is one of the top five goalies in the league. He had a heck of a season, and his performance in the playoff series against the Rangers solidified that.
When Emery was called on, there was nothing more we could have asked of him than to play well, and he did. In the words of the great Fred Shero, "You may only play five minutes, but those five minutes could win or lose the game."
With Emery, if he only plays 15 or 20 games, it's the same level of importance as if Mason plays 60 games. These two goalies complement each other very well.
What do I like most about Mason? His passion. I could see it in his face last night after the game. He wasn't grinning on his way off the ice; or thinking, "We'll get 'em next year;" or ready to pick up his golf clubs and set tee time for 8 a.m. on Friday. I could feel the pain in his face. You can't buy that passion.
That passionate goaltender is who you want on your team going forward. And that pain? It's important in his development as a young goalie to have that pain right now. It will inspire him to come back bigger, better and stronger next year. He may be walking away with this loss, but it's something he needs to experience in a clutch situation in order to move on to the next level.
Do we need adjustments as far as the entire team is concerned? Of course. You can never stand still and make it to your destination.
Losing is a learning phase, and our fan base isn't going anywhere. They're the greatest fans in the world, and as angry as they may get, they'll be back next year. Believe me. Our fans will support us until their very last breaths.
The Flyers should be focused on winning, starting with game one and all throughout the rest of the season, so they can be sure to secure home ice advantage and have the honor of playing in front our electric fan base.
You could finish first or finish second. If you finish first, you get home ice advantage. If you finish second, as the Flyers saw, you lose home ice. When you have two strong teams, those who have home ice advantage are more likely to prevail today.
Walking away from this series, a first round exit, and the fans are all talking about Mason. He showed up, he proved a lot, he handled himself well, especially coming back from an injury, and made some absolutely phenomenal saves. Some saves only a seasoned goalie could make. Even with this loss, we have no hard feelings toward the goaltender, at all.
Paul Holmgren has been catching some heat, but let's give praise where it's due. Holmgren brought us our staring goaltender. We haven't had a goaltender like this in a very long time, since Ron Hextall even.
I want to also give a shout out to Craig Berube, Ian Laperriere, John Paddock and Jeff Reese. You guys have done a heck of a job.
Let's talk about something here. The Flyers started the season off pretty slow and Berube didn't come in until later. I can't stress enough how important it is for a coach to be with their team and set the tone during training camp. Berube had a whole year with the team, but he didn't have a training camp.
The adjustment has been made, and the players respect him and play for him now. I like that his criticism is done behind closed doors. The guys play very well under Berube. He manages the locker room well and each player believes in himself.
If I was playing today, and our season was over, I'd spend some time reflecting back to what I could have done better to win that game. Spend some time on it. "What did you do right? What mistakes were made? How can I improve my game?"
The imagination is a heck of a tool, and envisioning your mistakes and correcting them can do a lot for an athlete. Then, you move on. And although you have a couple months off, you have to be ready for the next season.
You can try to detach yourself from this game, but you can't. Honestly, after losing, I lost all interest in the playoffs. I didn't care to watch. You just move on. Your journey for the Stanley Cup has come to an end, and you're almost mourning. You have your grieving period, you enjoy some time off, and you start all over again.