Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shutout saves beard's life

Mason not superstitious, but after blanking Kings chin whiskers will stay

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CHRIS MASON has come to the first fork in his road as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

Should he or shouldn’t he?

Some might suggest he should play more.

It’s a good argument after his 1-0 overtime shutout win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

Mason has won four straight for the Jets and Thursday was his 22nd career shutout.

But the real question is what to do with that beard, which is already approaching playoff density.

"I was joking around (Thursday) with my wife," Mason said Friday morning. "I told her, ‘Honey, I’ll shave my beard tomorrow.’ My (five-year-old) daughter said, ‘No, no, no.’ I said, ‘Well, unless I get a shutout.’ I was just joking around. Got the shutout, so I guess I have to keep it a while longer."

One might deduce from that that Mason, the 35-year-old veteran from Red Deer, Alta., is superstitious. That would be nothing new for a man in a mask.

"I like having a beard as it is, so that’s a good reason to keep it," he said. "Is it (an early) playoff thing?

I did that one year in St. Louis (2009). Bunch of us on that team did it. We were a lot of points out and we ended up coming back and making the playoffs. I think sometimes guys won’t change their dress clothes and stuff like that. It’s all part of when you feel good, you keep things the same.

"I’m no different."

What’s the same for Mason this week is that he’s doing pretty much what he’s always done, even if some folks seem surprised.

Mason may be well past his prospect days but he’s done everything the Jets have asked of him, and more, in his role as No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec’s backup.

It’s easy to forget he won 30 games just two seasons ago for the St. Louis Blues. And the shutout total? You don’t just order these things online.

Since coming back from an early-season injury, Mason has had just four starts, but he’s been the story in all of them, posting four wins, a goals against average of 1.49 and a save percentage of .947. "It feels great. My opportunities are limited here so every chance I get to go in, I want to play well," Mason said. "So I was happy last night that I was able to do that."

Happy describes Mason’s disposition nearly every day. He’s an ultra-positive guy and a popular teammate.

"Every time he’s been in the net, he’s played great this year," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, especially these last two starts. He’s been excellent and kept us in both games.

"We know he battles so hard that he’ll give us a chance to win."

The good news for the Jets, who are likely to send Pavelec back into the nets for tonight’s 6 p.m. contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs (6 p.m., CBC, TSN 1290), is that Mason certainly feels his recent play is nothing out of the ordinary.

"I’m not surprised at myself," he said on the heels of his 31-save Thursday shutout to get to 5-2-0 on the season. "I didn’t have a great year last year (13-13-3) but the season before, I played 60 games for St. Louis and had a really good season, so I don’t think by any means this is out of character for me.

"I feel good, I feel in control. I feel really good in practice and I think it’s translating onto the ice."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2011 C3

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