For as long as most fans can remember, the Philadelphia Flyers have had a goalie problem.
If it wasn’t the coach playing musical chairs with the starter and the backup, it was a serious lack of talent or a netminder who just couldn’t do the job or issues with the goalie coach or a laundry list of injuries.
Or, in the case of Ilya Bryzgalov, you massively overpaid a player who turned out to be a serious whack-a-doodle.
Most Flyers fans would agree that the last time the club had any kind of consistentcy between the pipes was when current GM Ron Hextall was the goalie. Considering Hextall retired in 1999, over 15 years ago, that should speak volumes about the Flyers and their goalie situation in the seasons since.
With the addition of Steve Mason in 2012, things seemed to finally be on the right path. Once the mercurial Bryzgalov was given a large check and a one way ticket out of Philadelphia, Mason stepped into the starters role and hasn’t looked back. After a difficult 2014-15 season, Mason was looking to make a comeback this year, helped by new head coach Dave Hakstol and new goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh.
But just to be safe, the Flyers went out last July and replaced the inconsistent Ray Emery with seven-year veteran Michal Neuvirth, signing him to a two-year deal to backup Mason in the net.
And it is looking more and more like the move was a good one.
Since the start of the season, Mason has been dealing with everything from personal family issues to getting sick while the team was on a road trip through Canada. The result has been numbers that aren’t anywhere near where Mason wants them. He is 2-4-2 with a 3.34 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Mason is well aware that his season hasn’t started the way he wanted.
“It’s been a tough start to the year. Personally, I haven’t been able to get on a roll. Bumps along the way, personal things and getting sick. That’s kind of hindered me from trying to get on a roll or in a rhythm more than anything.”
via CSN Philly.com
As a result, Neuvirth has been called into action much sooner than was expected and has shined, putting up three shutouts (which lead the NHL) and a record of 3-2-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage.
Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be the backup.
So of course, this being Philadelphia and all, it has led to something of a goalie controversy for the Flyers, with some fans calling for Neuvirth to get the starting job over Mason.
Now to be honest, the season has barely started and Mason has plenty of time to get it together and play the way everyone knows he is capable of. And it would seem Coach Hakstol feels the same way.
So it would appear Mason’s job as the starting goaltender is safe. But isn’t it refreshing to know that if Mason needs a break or isn’t performing the way he should, the Flyers have a competent, reliable, talented backup waiting on the bench who can come in and defend the net with the best of them? When was the last time that happened for the Flyers?
Two talented goalies, both wearing the Orange and Black.
A goalie controversy? I say bring it.