AFTER IT WAS over, the subject was the Flyers' goaltending — because it is the springtime, and the subject is always the Flyers' goaltending in the springtime — and coach Craig Berube said, "We'll look at it. We've got a couple of days to figure it out, get some practice time, and then I'll make a decision."
It was the politic thing to say, and maybe the wise thing — especially given the way the concussive winds have blown around here lately. But barring some kind of monumental physical setback, Steve Mason is starting on Friday night for the Flyers and Ray Emery is returning to his backup role. That much is plain.
Trailing now by two games to one in the series, following last night's 4-1 loss to the Rangers, Berube really has no choice. Emery failed to catch one puck, leading to a goal, and he kind of waved at a 55-footer for another goal, and that is that.
And so, here is your Emery scorecard:
OK in a Game 1 loss.
Outstanding in the decisive second period of a Game 2 win.
Less than OK in a Game 3 loss.
Add it all up and Emery did what you would expect a backup goaltender to do in a playoff series against a team that is favored. It might not have happened exactly how anyone predicted it, but a 2-1 deficit in the series for the Flyers was likely the most common expectation.
Now, though, the focus is on Mason, whose still-unspecified upper-body injury — which most people believe resides somewhere within the concussion family of maladies — was suddenly healed enough for him to be the backup in Game 3.
All of this is happening so fast, which is kind of what the playoffs always feel like. But in this case, you really do need a notebook to keep track of this thing. To recap, Mason got hurt two Saturdays ago in Pittsburgh, missed Game 1 of the series in New York on Thursday, looked Friday like he was going to be able to come back, had an apparent setback on Saturday, didn't play in Game 2 on Sunday, ruled himself out of Game 3 after practice on Monday, looked much better and happier after the pregame skate yesterday morning and was backing up last night. Whew.
After the skate, Berube hinted that the backup thing was possible. Before the game, he announced that it was happening.
"He's ready," Berube said. "And he feels like he wants to get in there and be the backup. So we talked and made the decision, and he's going to back up tonight."
For his part, Mason said that not dressing for the game was the plan when he woke up yesterday morning. But, he said, "after pregame skate, I got through with no problems. I sat down with [Berube] and [goaltending coach Jeff Reese] and decided that it would be good to get back in the team atmosphere, and it was nice to be back around the guys."
Berube was asked, if Mason was indeed healthy enough to back up, why wasn't he starting?
"Ray won Game 2," Berube said. "Ray's played well. [Mason] is healthy. So we made a decision after practice. He's going to back up tonight."
To me, Berube played this correctly. It really all did happen so fast, and Mason really did have only limited practice time, and Emery had been preparing for 2 days to start another game. When you weighed it all out on a balancing scale, going with Emery made sense — not because Emery deserved it, but because Mason hadn't had the prep time.
And then the game played out — with Emery mishandling a Rick Nash shot early in the first period, failing to catch it and essentially handing the rebound to Derek Stepan to make it 1-0; with Emery waving at a long shot by Dan Girardi in the second period that made it 3-1. A good decision had gone wrong. As Berube said, "I'm sure he wants a couple back. But he battled and gave us an opportunity going into the third period."
And, well, here we are.
For the Flyers, any bit of room to maneuver in the series is gone with the loss. The best thing Berube did last night was to pull Emery with 7:15 remaining in the third period and give Mason a chance to deal with some of the aforementioned rust.
"It's good to get back out there," Mason said. "I haven't played in I guess almost 2 weeks or so, and it was nice to get my feet wet again and I look forward to maybe the next game."
But that is all he got, 7:15. As Berube said, "He didn't get a lot of work. At that time, I thought it was a good idea to get him in there, get him used to it a little bit. He looked OK. He didn't get a lot of work."
With that, into the fire.
On Twitter: @theidlerich