Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 03/30/09 at 07:18 PM ET
Blues goaltender Chris Mason participated in a tele-conference today…
Q. Just wondering, I’m sure this is a question that you have not been asked yet, but do you think you need rest before the end of the season?
CHRIS MASON: No, I don’t, actually. You know, I’m getting good rest on the off days, and they are taking care of me like that.
So I’m definitely saving my energy for the games, and, you know, at this point in the season, you just find the energy. It’s just when you go out on the ice and you’re playing these games that mean so much, you just find the energy. All of the other players are expected to do it, so I don’t see why the goalies can’t, too.
Q. What’s been the biggest difference in your game since New Year’s when it seems that things really turned around for you?
CHRIS MASON: I think it’s just you get that opportunity to play. You know, I’ve been working really hard the first half of this season with Rick Wamsley on tweaking my game a little bit. And I think once those kind of things came, starting to come natural, instead of having to really think about doing the different things and consciously changing, kind of one thing at a time.
I think once it all started to come together, it just was natural. It was just easier; instead of thinking about it, I would try to make my game a little more efficient. But the biggest thing is just getting the playing time.
Q. I know you went 1?4 in your only appearance in the playoffs in 2005?2006; I would imagine that getting another shot in the playoffs is something you’ve been looking forward to. Did you take anything from that experience that would help you prepare personally, if you did get in this season?
CHRIS MASON: Definitely. It’s a different, it’s a different level. But I think the games we are playing right now is a great preparation for it. We have definitely been in playoff mode for quite a while. We’ve been playing tight games. Most of our games are one?goal games and they are coming down to the third period where you need that urgency. You need those plays and saves at the end of the game. I think this is helping, and definitely having gone through a little touch of playoff against San Jose helped me, too.
Q. You were asked to speak to the team at the end of the Canadian swing. Can you take me back, just what kind of things you said, and why you felt it was important that you said them?
CHRIS MASON: Well, before the game, Andy gave us a chance, a couple of guys he asked how they felt. He asked a couple of the younger guys how they felt, how they were treated and how they liked their teammates and things like that. We got obviously good responses, and we are a really close team. And Andy asked me: “How have you liked being a St. Louis Blue. You came over from Nashville; how have you liked your teammates and experience being a Blue?”
I just basically told the guys how much they mean to me and how much this opportunity (means) and how proud I am to be part of the St. Louis Blues, and literally, it’s going to war with these guys every night. I just really feel that our team is a true definition of the word team. We need everybody in our room. We are not going to blow our teams out of the water. All of our games are hard?fought and there’s just no quitting. It’s kind of a good opportunity for us let each other know how much we meant and know how important this stretch is for our team.
Q. When the season started, it seemed like ?? a statement doesn’t seem like exactly the right word, but I don’t know what the right word would be. You had a goaltender slip on a carpet laid out for a vice presidential candidate and hurt himself; you had a defenseman injure himself in a golf cart accident; you had a ton of players go down and some still out. What do you think overall has really sparked this push to the point where yesterday, here you are on the right side of a dividing line in the Western Conference?
CHRIS MASON: I think Dan Hinote on our team summed it up the best: I think we are a bunch of underdogs in that room, and we are fighting to prove ourselves. We are fighting for recognition, and basically to get in the playoffs. That’s our goal, and we are hungry and we want this so bad. You know, we had all of the guys come in after the injuries and we had trouble there finding our identity as a team and finding the chemistry. But we just seemed to ?? we just seemed to gel, and once we did find that; once we understood how we have to play and what kind of team we are, things really turned around.
We have not really looked back, and we are a very determined team. You know, the work ethic has always been there, and that’s the one thing I’m just so proud of our team is that we never give up and we never quit. We work till the end.
Q. Was that reinforced by fact that management did not do anything? Was that taken as a vote of confidence by the team at that point that that was the direction the organization wanted to keep following?
CHRIS MASON: It definitely did. The fact that nothing was done said a lot to the players in that room. You know, you can tell after the day, because it’s tough. We heard rumors of Tkachuk and things like that, and you understand, but the team is going to do what the team is in the best interests for the team. The fact that they kept us together, we kind of came in the next day and everyone had the look in their eyes; they are happy that nothing happened and we are ready to go from there.
Q. You talked about the underdogs, how the team is a bunch of underdogs. Taking a look at the roster, it does look like there’s a lot of guys who for whatever reason, St. Louis saw something in and brought them in, I don’t want to say reclamation because of the connotation, it’s kind of negative. But you take a look at it, that’s sort of what it is for a lot of guys, isn’t it?
CHRIS MASON: It really is. And with all of those, I think you touched on all of the injuries at the beginning of the season and the severity of them, w had to pick up BJ Crombeen who ha’s been great for us; Winchester started the season in Peoria but with injuries, he got called up and he’s been great. I could go down the list of three quarters of our team.
Obviously we have some of the guys that are marquis players, like Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald, Keith Tkachuk, those guys. But Roman Polack coming in; all of our guys are just people that probably nobody really knew until this season, and I think they are taking a name for themselves and for our team.
Q. And what about you? I mean, you’ve done very much the same. I think with your next game played, it’s a season?high with your next win and it’s also a season?high. You’ve spent so much time trying to prove yourself in Nashville having paid your dues in Milwaukee for all those years. This must be something substantial for you, as well, on a personal level.
CHRIS MASON: Yeah, on a personal level, it is. This is what I’ve dreamed of my whole life. In Nashville, I knew that while Tomas Vokoun was there, he’s an unbelievable goaltender, and I knew that I would never have the opportunity to be No. 1 while he was there. They traded him because of financial difficulties and things likes that with selling the team. And I never really got a goal last year. That was a terrible year, and was probably my worst year statistically. But I felt that having had that year, you know, made this year possible, and I just learned how to handle kind of the pressures of being a No. 1 goalie. I think I felt ?? I worried about things that didn’t really matter last year that this year, I’m just worried about playing a game and bottom line is, you’re a hockey player. You worry about playing hockey. It really helped.
Q. Your start, it wasn’t a rocket right out of the gate; you had the appendicitis. Was there anything that went off, like a light or a eureka moment that you sort of had?
CHRIS MASON: I felt ?? I know the numbers are right there and the wins are right there, but I felt better this year. I just knew it was there. I was working really hard with Rick Wamsley, we were tweaking my game and trying to make it a little more efficient and a little more patient.
Last year, I think I was aggressive. I was going after it too much with ?? I’m in a position that I need to wait till the game comes to me, and I was getting myself in trouble by being a little too aggressive. I don’t know if it’s working too hard, but you just kind of ?? I don’t know, just the poise wasn’t there, and I think that this year, we worked really hard the first half of the season to do some new things. Once that started feeling natural, and I didn’t have to think about doing it, I just did it. I think my game really started to turn around.
Q. St. Louis has been a really good hockey city historically, but for the last number of years, just as the team struggles, fan interest has kind of waned. Can you describe for folks who are not in St. Louis what the feeling is around the city and the rink on game nights? From what I’ve head, it seems like attendance has picked up a lot.
CHRIS MASON: It really has. We had a number of sellouts. Even when the team was not winning, they were coming to support us. We have some exciting young players. They just want us to put in a gritty work ethic and just be that hard?nosed kind of gritty team, and we were doing that. Now we are finally able to pay them back with some wins.
Our last couple of games here have just been crazy with us inching in there and fighting for that last spot; it’s just been unbelievable. It feels like it’s playoffs.
Q. The road left doesn’t look very easy, doesn’t it. You’re on the road, Chicago, Detroit, down to Dallas, over to Columbus and way up to Colorado. A lot of air miles.
CHRIS MASON: It is. But it’s nothing new for us. I think that it has not been easy. We have not had an easy game for the last two and a half months, so I don’t think we are too worried about who does on the schedule. We have got our next game coming up and that’s really all we care about, and we’ll worry about the other ones after that.
Q. It’s Monday and you’ve got a game Wednesday. You’ve been on a roll, I think it’s 27 straight games. Do you sort of stay on the couch after this phone call and not move for the next 12 hours?
CHRIS MASON: Today, honestly, it’s going to be a day of rest. I’m not going to do basically anything so far and I don’t plan on it. I’m just getting my rest and really saving my energy for games. Every little thing helps and I’m just making sure to get my meals and all that kind of stuff. I just want to be ready to play when the game- when the puck drops.
Q. You just touched on this a bit, but just wondering, do you take the time to look at the schedules of all the various teams to see who you are up against, who the other guys are up against and try to do some math and figure out how things might shake out?
CHRIS MASON: You know, you watch the scores, but I look at the scores and things like that, and it changes every night. It’s too drastic.
You might see a little bit of who their next game is, but we honestly, we try not to do that. We have had a good approach the last month or so worrying about our next opponent. We’ll enjoy our wins or kind of think about our losses for a few minutes after the game, and our coaches are making a real point that we don’t do that kind of stuff. We haven’t, and it seems to work. So we try not to look too far ahead.
Q. It just seems that the seven, eight spots are kind of changing every two weeks depending on who gets hot. Do you feel like you guys are getting on a run at just the right time, or do you feel it’s taken so much to pull yourselves back into this thing that there might be enough in the tank to get there all the way to the end?
CHRIS MASON: No, we don’t think that at all. We feel great. We have been playing these tough games, one?goal games, and fighting for every point that we get. You know, we looked in the room and we just played two games in less than 24 hours, and you know, against Columbus and we went ?? the Eastern time zone, guys were dancing around after the game when we should have been basically laying on our backs and getting some rest and things like that. There’s a lot of energy in there, and winning and that goal of getting in the playoffs, you just find that energy. I’m not worried about that at all.
Q. Was that a pretty big turning point for you guys you were leading in control of, it slipped away a little bit and you managed to bounce back and pick up the two points in the shootout.
CHRIS MASON: It was definitely a big win, because we did give up the lead. But after Andy called a time?out when they tied it out, we settled down and we ended up winning the shootout and we held on there. It just says a lot when you find ways; you could have went the other way, and Columbus had all the momentum and they were coming at us pretty hard. We held them off and won it. That was a sign of a mature team even though we are young and finding ways to do it.
Q. How did you view being traded from Nashville in the off?season? What were your initial thoughts? What was going through your mind at that moment?
CHRIS MASON: I was actually ?? I was happy. You know, I knew is that after last year, that there were ?? something was probably going to happen. The year I had, it could have been anything. You look at guys this year; Gerber on waivers, Legace, things like that happen all the time. I think that could have been a possibility, too.
So I was just really thankful that somebody took a chance on me again. I knew a few of the guys here in St. Louis. I played with Paul Kariya obviously; I played Junior with Eric Brewer, and I met a few of the guys at the World Championships.
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