Training camp may have given fans a sense of optimism, but it didn’t take long for the Philadelphia Flyers to encounter issues between the pipes. Going into the 2018-19 season, the orange and black seemed to have five options in goal but, that list has since changed significantly.
The expected starting tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth was quickly scratched when Neuvirth suffered a groin injury at practice on September 21st. He remains out indefinitely, and with his track record of injury issues, we shouldn’t expect the coaching staff to rush him back prematurely. On October 2nd, the Flyers picked up goaltender Calvin Pickard on waivers from Toronto, and it is assumed that he will be the number two behind Elliott until Neuvirth returns.
Thankfully, Brian Elliott remains healthy, despite abdominal surgery last February and an offseason procedure on his hip. Elliott played the entirety of the Flyers’ preseason finale against the Boston Bruins last week, where he looked as confident as we’ve seen him this preseason. Stopping 26 of 27 shots, Elliott seemed more fluid in his movements and tracked the puck much more aggressively than he did in his previous preseason contest. If nothing else, it showed Philadelphia that Elliott is capable of providing a solid effort between the pipes, something in which the Flyers will need to remain somewhat consistent if they hope to rack up enough wins to make the postseason.
Now, on to the ones that didn’t quite make the cut. Just a few days before Neuvirth went down with his groin injury, it was announced that Alex Lyon would miss approximately four weeks with the dreaded “lower body injury”. The injury occurred during warmups on September 18th against the New York Islanders, where he was slated to be the starter. His preseason was short-lived, as he only played in one game, registering 30 minutes of playing time and stopping nine of ten shots. It was expected to be a battle in Lehigh Valley between Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, and rookie Carter Hart, but that decision becomes much clearer now with the addition of Pickard, as well as the injury to Lyon.
This brings us to the most disappointing news to come out of the Flyers preseason. No, not the grand reveal of Gritty, the team’s new and slightly terrifying mascot, but the demotion of Carter Hart. The 20-year-old goaltender was sent down to the AHL this past Sunday. Appearing in four preseason games for Philadelphia, Hart went 0-1-0, with a 1.87 GAA, .922 save percentage, and stopping 59 of 64 shots. Although the showing was impressive for the rookie, it wasn’t enough to warrant the NHL backup job just yet. On the positive side, the absence of Lyon and Stolarz’ likely promotion to the NHL should get ample playing time in Lehigh Valley, and still has a shot at a call-up should an injury occur.
How long Elliott can hold onto the starting reins for the Flyers remains to be seen, but the good news is that Philadelphia has a plethora of options to explore going forward. Whether it’s a veteran workhorse or a rookie sensation, consistency will be key if the Philadelphia Flyers expect to find themselves in the playoff race come April.
Daniel is an avid Philadelphia Flyers fan from South Central Pennsylvania. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org