Ilya Bryzgalov, the wannabe cosmonaut who enjoys critiquing journalists in his spare time, cannot be blamed for the Flyers' failure to make the playoffs this season.

The quirky Russian goalie was good, not great, and his overall numbers - a pedestrian 2.79 goals-against average and career-worst .900 save percentage - are somewhat misleading. Because of his team's poor defensive play, Bryzgalov faced an inordinate number of odd-man rushes and breakaways.

Bryzgalov, who will turn 33 next month, was one of the league's true workhorses. During one stretch, he started 31 of 32 games, including 22 straight.

"I wore down," he admitted late in the season.

He wore down, in part, because the Flyers did not have a dependable backup until they acquired Steve Mason on April 3.

Bryzgalov got more rest after Mason arrived, but his numbers in his final seven games were almost identical (2.71, .897) to his overall season.

If the Flyers do not buy out the last seven years of Bryzgalov's contract next month, there will be a spirited battle for the No. 1 spot during training camp.

Coach Peter Laviolette said competition brings out the best in people. Bryzgalov and Mason agree.

In seven games with the Flyers, Mason was great, not good. He had a 1.90 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.

It was a small sample, but the 24-year-old Mason seems to have regained the mojo he displayed while winning the rookie-of-the-year award after the 2008-09 season.

For a goalie, Mason said, "the entire game is all about confidence."

The 6-foot-4, 217-pounder called the trade that brought him from Columbus for Michael Leighton and a third-round 2015 draft pick a "rebirth" of sorts.

"The last three years in Columbus beat me down, mentally, more than anything else," he said in a phone interview the other day. "There were a lot of expectations we couldn't meet, and you work hard to get them, and we couldn't get results.

"I left the baggage there and got a fresh start."