In their eighth season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have never had a better chance of making the playoffs. And the reason is simple: 20-year-old goalie Steve Mason. The 6-foot-3, 186-pound skinny stopper is reminiscent of a young Tom Barrasso and has been brilliant since an early November call-up from Syracuse (AHL). In his first 30 NHL games, he recorded six shutouts -- including three straight in late December -- and his key stats (2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage) stand among the league leaders.
However, with such a young and inexperienced goaltender, the natural question is: Can Mason propel them into the playoffs?
The answer is yes. Throughout the league's long and storied history, there have been many instances where a freshman goaltender backstopped a team to the post-season. Some, like Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden, went on to have Hall of Fame careers. Others, like former Caps stopper Jim Carey and ex-Bruins G Andrew Raycroft, never lived up to their early promise.