It’s a tale as old as time.
No, not Beauty and the Beast (though Emma Watson as Belle? I’m in).
I’m talking about the Flyers having…how do I put this nicely? A big bag of “meh” in net.
I’m 26 years old. For as long as I can remember, the number one guy in net has been a revolving door of mediocre. Hextall towards the backend of his career, John Vanviesbrouck with the same story, Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, Jeff Hackett, Robert Esche, Antero Niittymaki, Ray Emery, Brian Boucher part II, Michael fucking Leighton (don’t get me started here), Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Bryzgalov, Steve Mason, Michael Neuvirth. Yeah, I’m sure I’m missing some guys in there, but I did that off the top of my head (sadly, no, I’m not kidding.)
For years, I’ve been that Flyers fan that has said “hey, give the goalies a break. It’s not just them. The defense has let them down.” I said it about Boucher. I said it about Bryzgalov (hate him all you want, he played decently, just didn’t live up to expectations). And I said it about this tandem last year.
Hell, I’m still saying it. But even my patience is wearing thin. Adam Kimelman tweeted with a win Wednesday against the Rangers, Mason would have moved into third all-time in Flyers wins, tying Wayne Stephenson at 93.
Yes, 93 wins is the third-most wins a Flyers goalie has in the 50-year history of the team. Ron Hextall and Bernie Parent are 1-2, coming in at 240 and 232, but after that, the drop off is astounding.
I’ll be the first to tell you, overall team defense so far this year has been lacking. Incredibly lacking. From the forwards down to the blueline, Dave Hakstol needs to crack the whip on back checking and playing defense on an actual man. But the fact of the matter is, having this pair of goalies in the crease doesn’t help. When you’re team is crumbling around you, you need to look at the guy with the baller mask and know he’s got it. And I can say, right now, the Flyers don’t have that.
Mason, through 33 games played (30 starts) is 14-13-5 with a large chunk of those wins coming during the team’s 10-game win streak. His goals against average is 2.82 with a save percentage of .903. Meanwhile, Neuvirth is coming off an injury, but his numbers are even worse. In eight starts he’s 4-2-0 with a 3.52 GAA and .859 save percentage.
The league average this year? NHL.com puts the league at a 2.55 GAA and .914 save percentage. Obviously, both guys are below the average in the league. Another point to make–the Flyers lone shutout this year came with the rookie Anthony Stolarz in net.
As I already said, team defense is something that needs to be improved to help the goalies. The Flyers let up too many odd-man rushes against the Rangers and left guys standing wide open for shots. Still, your goalie needs to make big saves when called upon. And right now that’s not happening.
I’m behind Hextall’s “build through the draft” approach instead of the knee-jerk signings his predecessor was a fan of. But if Hexy doesn’t have his eyes on a guy that can be a franchise netminder, he needs to change that.