The Philadelphia Flyers had a very disappointing season last year in the shortened schedule. A big part of this was the massive struggle of their goaltending. Carter Hart didn’t look himself and Brian Elliott couldn’t give effective minutes either. This year, they made a change in the backup position bringing in Martin Jones. This was a decision many were not sure of, as Jones has struggled mightily too. However, in the early start to this season, Jones appears to be settling into a backup role pretty well.
Martin Jones Solid Early
Before we get too far, this is a very small sample. Martin Jones has played just two games thus far with the Flyers and not too much should be taken out of that. However, it is a very encouraging thing to start because they don’t need him to play amazing. Jones was brought in to be a stable backup and play 30ish games behind Hart. As well as take a few games in a row if Hart struggles or gets injured. Jones has been a starter and knows what that workload is like. However, it doesn’t mean you want him to be in that role all year. All the Flyers are asking is that when you go somewhere such as Pennbets, starting Jones doesn’t decrease their chances of winning.
In two games this year, Jones has a 0.941 save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against average with a 2-0-0 record. He has turned away all 64 shots he has faced on route to two victories. The Flyers will take this performance every night of the week. In fact, even if he regresses, which is likely, it is still very acceptable. A huge improvement so far on his 0.896 save percentages he posted the last two seasons.
Goaltending has been the key behind this Flyer’s start of 5-2-2 so far this year. The team isn’t playing exceptional defence in front of their goalies. They are letting up quite a few shots from high-danger areas in front of the net relative to the league. However, both Jones and Hart have been very good early on. Jones has posted a 1.64 goals saved above average and a 1.56 goals saved above expected. While Hart has posted a 3.12 and 5.76 in his seven games. These can regress and get lower if either of them starts letting in goals they were not expected to, but so far it is a great improvement for both of them from last season.
Last year, Jones posted a -11.57GSAA and a -12.61GSAx. Hart posted an abysmal -22.73GSAA and a -24.34GSAx. In just 27 games for Hart, those were some of the worst in the league. It’s no wonder Philly struggled so much. It is also why so many questioned bringing over Jones who clearly struggled in the 34 games he played last year. However, so far it has not been the old Jones we are seeing.
Jones and His Role
One of the biggest changes for Jones may be that he doesn’t need to be “the guy”. He took the San Jose Sharks to a Stanley Cup Final and was rewarded with a solid contract. However, he never really lived up to it after that. Whether it be the fatigue of a full season or just bad luck, Jones was not the same guy. Now, he doesn’t need to go out and steal games every night. His only job is to give the team a chance to win in difficult situations. The second half of back-to-backs or when the starter just isn’t going, Jones can focus on more specific matchups instead of the 55 start grind.
Having him as the backup does also give the Flyers a guy who has been able to play multiple games in a row if needed. This pushes Hart as he knows someone is behind him. Elliott was never a guy you saw playing 50 games in a year at this age. He’s an alright backup who plays when he needed, but he was never going to force Hart.
The Flyers don’t need Jones to be this good all season. In fact, even just part of this would do wonders. Having a steady backup that can give reliable minutes when needed will go a long way. This Metro division is very deep. Having good goaltending night in and night out will be crucial. Picking up extra points here and there can go a long way in a tight race. Jones won’t be perfect all year but having some stability in net is a great base to start from for the Philadelphia Flyers.