The Philadelphia Flyers goaltending has always been an issue for the team and that has been no different for them this season. Brian Elliott was coming off of core muscle surgery during the season and hip surgery in the off-season. Michal Neuvirth had surgery on both hips and was injured again during camp. Alex Lyon suffered an injury during training camp as well.
The Flyers picked up Calvin Pickard off waivers, hoping he could provide stability. That has not been the case either. With a 4-6 record through 10 games, the Flyers goaltending has been one of the team’s biggest issues. And they will need answers fast before it is too late.
Flyers Goaltending Needs An Answer
Despite both Elliott and Neuvirth needing surgery in the off-season, Ron Hextall decided to enter training camp with both goaltenders as the team’s likely tandem once again. Neuvirth appeared in one preseason game before suffering a lower-body injury during a morning skate on September 21st.
Lyon would have likely been the next goaltender up, but he left warm-ups on September 18th with a lower-body injury. He would miss the next four weeks. That left Anthony Stolarz as the only goaltender left to back up Elliott. It had been over a year since Stolarz had appeared in a professional game after consecutive meniscus tears in his left knee.
It was clear that Hextall did not trust that tandem as he would claim Pickard off waivers two days before the season began. Stolarz would back-up Elliott to start, as Pickard dealt with visa issues. Stolarz was loaned to the Phantoms shortly after.
Now the Flyers goaltending hasn’t been the only issue that has plagued the team early on. But it has not been helpful to them either as both Elliott and Pickard have struggled through the team’s first 10 games.
It was clear that Elliott was rusty during the beginning stages of camp. He looked like a goaltender coming off of hip surgery. But come opening night against the Vegas Golden Knights, Elliott put in a strong effort as the team cruised to a 5-2 victory. Elliott was given a dose of reality the next two games.
The Flyers were outscored 13-4 in those games, thanks to the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. And to make matters worse, Elliott remained in net as the Sharks put up eight goals during the Flyers home opener. Just as his team, Elliott has been inconsistent to start the season.
Elliott has finished all but one of his seven starts as he saw himself pulled after giving up four goals to the Florida Panthers on October 16th. A 2-5-0 record, along with a 3.39 goals-against-average and .886 save percentage is what Elliott has to show for himself thus far.
Pickard, after being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs, came to the Flyers with something to prove. He spent most of last season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies where he won 21 of 33 games. With Garret Sparks winning the backup role out of camp, Pickard was expected to head right back to the AHL had he cleared waivers.
It hasn’t been a long career thus far for Pickard. In just 90 games, he has a 30-45-7 record. This includes his three games in a Flyers uniform where he’s gone 2-1-0. While the record isn’t bad, the rest of his numbers leave a lot to be desired. Pickard is sporting a 4.75 goals-against-average and a .833 save percentage.
Pickard has been unable to keep pucks out of the net during his starts. While he yielded one goal against the Panthers, he only faced three shots in relief. Overall, giving up 11 goals in three games is not going to win Pickard a job at this level. And with Neuvirth back, it may only be a matter of time before he finds himself on waivers once again.
Three Goaltenders, For Now
With James van Riemsdyk and Michael Raffl both on injured reserve, the Flyers have elected to keep all three goaltenders on the roster for the time being. Neuvirth was activated after appearing in one rehab game with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He made 31 out of 34 saves in the victory.
While having played in three games, Pickard has the third worst goals against average. Elliott sits 16th on the list. Among goaltenders who have appeared in at least five games, Elliott’s save percentage is the seventh worst. His goals-against average is the sixth worst among the same number of goaltenders.
Unless the Flyers goaltending is to see any more injuries, Pickard’s days in a Flyers uniform are numbered. No matter what is to happen, though, the Flyers need answers in net. Through ten games, the Flyers have given up the most goals (40). They have also allowed the second worst goals per game (4.00).
Barring anything drastic, the Flyers will not look towards Carter Hart to fix their problems. If the team continues to falter, however, Hextall may have to find a solution to the Flyers goaltending issues before it is too late.
Main Photo by Kate Frese (@KateFresePhoto), licensed to Last Word on Hockey. The Photographer retains all rights to the photograph.