Mason shrugs off slump in form as lady luck passes by

There are times when a hockey puck
— nothing more than a 6-ounce hunk of vulcanized rubber — seems to have a mind
of its own, when it seems almost magnetically drawn to the back of the net.

Recently Blue Jackets goaltender
Steve Mason was tight to the near post, in perfect position to make a save on Tampa Bay’s
Vincent Lecavalier. But the puck nicked off the stick blades of two Jackets
defensemen and clunked off the far post before going into the net.

Mason reached into the net with his
stick and fired the puck down the ice.

“The message,” Mason
said, “was ‘Get the hell out of here, puck, and don’t ever go in that net

Two months ago, Mason might have
carried that goal with him for the rest of the second period, maybe the rest of
the game. But Mason learned a difficult lesson during this challenging season.

“People probably think it’s
easy to let a bad bounce or a bad goal slide,” Mason said.
“Everybody’s competitive in this league, and they want to be perfect with
their games. But that’s just not possible.

“You just have to be…I guess
the word for it is mature and realize things like that happen and they’ll
happen again. You just have to make sure that when the next puck comes at you,
you stop it.”

It has been difficult for Mason to
keep his head up this year with Columbus
as the Blue Jackets are second to last in the Western Conference standings
coming into this week. A lot of criticism has been on the defense which has given
up 254 goals on the year.

Mason takes the high road in
regards to the play of his team-mates.

“They make mistakes, I make
mistakes,” Mason said. “It’s how you respond to them.”

Last year Mason faced far less
mistakes as Columbus
played well and made the playoffs with Mason being named rookie of the year.

For 2010 Mason has needed constant
encouragement from his inner circle. Among them is agent Anton Thun, who has
told Mason repeatedly to relax.

“The bad stuff is going to
happen,” Thun said. “That’s how this game of hockey works. But it’s water
off a duck’s back. Just let it go.”