A goalie problem in Philadelphia? You don’t say.
Just a few weeks ago it was looking like the Flyers had improved their goaltending situation moving forward. They signed Brian Elliott to a cheap, two-year deal to split time with Michal Neuvirth and had Anthony Stolarz as the guy waiting in the wings while splitting time with Alex Lyon in Lehigh Valley. Not to mention their goalie prospects in Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom that are developing well.
But things can change quickly.
On Friday, the Flyers announced that Anthony Stolarz would be out indefinitely after surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee, the same knee he injured just a few months prior. It’s quite the blow to Stolarz, who was finally looking to prove himself after putting up solid numbers in limited NHL time. It was looking like a big year for Stolie the goalie, and this is a pretty big setback. Not only that, it leaves the Flyers in an unfortunate situation.
The Flyers have made it pretty clear that they want to use a goalie tandem this season. Ron Hextall has hinted at it, and it was a part of the reason that Elliott was brought in to share time with Neuvirth. Elliott has thrived in a tandem, and so has Neuvirth. But they both have had their struggles as well.
Elliott hasn’t played up to his ability when relied upon as the starter, which was part of the reason for his .910 save percentage last season with Calgary. Neuvirth has shown that he can get hot and put the team on his back at times, but that is also a very fragile back to lean upon. He has played in just 60 games over the past two seasons, and hasn’t played in more than 32 games (in both 2014-15 and 2015-16) since 2011-12 when he played in 38 for Washington.
Anthony Stolarz was the safeguard. If either of the goalies struggled or more likely got injured, Stolarz was the safe backup option. His numbers weren’t too impressive in the AHL as he went 18-9 with a .911 save percentage (five points lower than his .916 the season prior) and a 2.92 goals against average. However, he showed that he could play at the NHL level. He compiled a 2-1-1 record with a shutout in four starts (seven games) last season. He stopped 168 of 181 shots or a .928 save percentage and a 2.07 goals against average.
The 23-year old goalie will now miss most of his fourth professional season. It’s a season that could’ve been a make or break season. You never want to see an injury occur to anyone at any time, but this seems like particularly bad timing for Stolarz.
Elliott and Neuvirth are under contract for a combined $5.25 million over the next two seasons, leaving plenty of opportunity for a prospect to come in and win the starting job in 2019 or even sooner. Stolarz was once the Flyers’ top goalie prospect, but now Hart and Sandstrom have easily passed him in terms of potential, and Lyon has the chance to pass him in the NHL-ready category.
Lyon will attend Flyers Rookie Camp and could very well participate in most of full Training Camp and see some preseason action as well. He impressed with a 27-14-5 record while posting a .912 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average in his first professional season. He was expected to split time with Stolarz for the Phantoms, but now the net will be his. The Phantoms have recently signed AHL veterans Leland Irving (29 years old) and Mark Dekanich (31 years old) to compete to back up Lyon in Lehigh Valley. If an injury occurs at the NHL level, it could be Lyon that will get a chance to show if his skills can translate to the next level.
It’s never boring when discussing goaltenders in Philadelphia, and this year it started even before training camp opened. Stolarz’s injury leaves the Flyers down a man in the crease, but is also provides a huge opportunity for Lyon and the rest of the Flyers goalie prospects.
Hopefully Stolarz can recover from this injury and return before the end of the season. But for now it leaves the Flyers in a bind.
Get well soon, Stolie.
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