NEWARK, N.J. -- It can't be a good feeling for a goaltender to watch a game he started from the bench after being yanked.
But those two perspectives -- from the goal and on the bench -- can give a guy a decent vantage point from which to decipher what went wrong.
Welcome to Chris Mason's nightmare Tuesday night, as the Winnipeg Jet netminder was pulled after being abandoned in a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils that exposed some disturbing flaws. He surrendered four goals on 15 shots before being replaced by Ondrej Pavelec, but was willing to face the media and sift through the wreckage afterwards for answers.
First, Mason's take on the struggles in the second of back-to-back games this season:
"I just think it's mental toughness. I mean, if we weren't playing today we'd be practising in the morning. The way that we travel and everything... guys get tired sometimes, but you've got to do it. There's no excuse. I don't know why we haven't been good, we've been terrible in our second games. You can't do that and expect to make the playoffs. You've got to win some of those games. It's tough, but everyone in the league has to do it.
"I don't know what's so hard about it. I know we're travelling but, like I said, if we weren't playing tonight we'd be practising. I know it's not the same kind of intensity but you're professionals. That's the way the schedule goes. Personally, I don't know why we've been so bad in the second game. I just think we have to prepare better and bring that effort. It's that old cliche, you've got to give everything you've got. You can't just go through the motions and hope to win."
And another flaw: the Jets are 15-7-2 when scoring first, but now just 6-13-3 when surrendering the opening goal.
"It's confidence," said Mason. "It's being in those situations before and knowing how to react. Chances are, most games you're going to get scored on. Sometimes you're going to score first, sometimes you're not. You just have to learn properly to the situation."
The Jets are 2-6 to open 2012 and, whether they like it or not, comparisons are being made to last year's mid-season nosedive by this franchise, then in Atlanta. The Thrashers led the Southeast Division at one point last season, before coming unravelled in January-February.
"You can do those comparables all you want," said Mason. "We're in a different place right now. I think we're better than we were last year. I think we're in a completely different situation. These are the dog days of the season right now. Every team goes through them and right now we're having a tough time. You have to go back to your roots. We created an identity and right now sometimes we're playing like that and sometimes we're not.
"And it's not good enough."
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A look at how the Jets have crashed and burned in their back-to-back games this season:
Oct. 19 -- Toronto 4 Winnipeg 3 (SOL)
Oct. 20 -- Ottawa 4 Winnipeg 1
Nov. 5 -- New Jersey 3 Winnipeg 2 (OT)
Nov. 6 -- NY Rangers 3 Winnipeg 0
Nov. 25 -- Winnipeg 3 Carolina 1
Nov. 26 -- Boston 4 Winnipeg 2
Dec. 9 -- Winnipeg 4 Carolina 2
Dec. 10 -- Detroit 7 Winnipeg 1
Dec. 22 -- Winnipeg 4 Montreal 0
Dec. 23 -- Pittsburgh 4 Winnipeg 1
Jan. 4 -- Montreal 7 Winnipeg 3
Jan. 5. -- Toronto 4 Winnipeg 0
Jan. 16 -- Winnipeg 2 Ottawa 0
Jan. 17 -- New Jersey 4 Winnipeg 0
Second game of back-to-backs: 0-7