The NHL is a jungle. Only the strongest survive. If this is true, consider the AHL grass, and right now, there’s a Lyon laying in it.
Alex Lyon has been on an absolute tear since the Phantoms began their hunt for the Calder Cup. He has played in seven games, sports a 6-1-0 record with a 1.49 GAA and a .959 save percentage, and was in net for the longest AHL game ever, recording 94 saves on 95 shots in a 2-1, 5 OT game against the Charlotte Checkers last Friday, May 11th.
With his performance this season, Alex Lyon is well on his way to a potential backup spot with the Philadelphia Flyers next season. However, there are a few things that still need to happen in order for Ron Hextall to consider bringing up the 25 year old netminder.
First things first, Lyon’s postseason performance needs to continue, and Lyon needs to at least lead his club to the Calder Cup finals. The Phantoms face a very tough Toronto Marlies team Saturday night. Toronto lead the AHL in points this season, albeit in a somewhat weak North division. Nonetheless, the Marlies are lead by a goaltender as well. Garret Sparks had a stellar regular season, posting a sub-2 goals against average with a save percentage of .936. This offseason, he has a 2.22 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in 8 games thus far.
The offenses on display in this series are pretty similar as well. Not many high scorers so far in the playoffs for either team, but some solid depth when it comes to scoring. With that being said, this series should come down to goaltending, and the Phantoms could be in a better position than the Marlies if that is so.
As stated before, Lyon has been absolutely stellar this postseason. His numbers speak for themselves. If he can continue this play throughout the series with Toronto, Lehigh Valley should be able to advance to the Calder Cup Finals against the winner of the series between the Texas Stars and the Rockford Icehogs.
If Lyon takes his team to the Calder Cup Finals, and wins, that could spell trouble for Ron Hextall. Lyon backstopping his team to a Calder Cup could force Hextall’s hand, making it virtually impossible to leave Lyon down with the Phantoms. It makes even more sense when you factor in Anthony Stolarz coming back from injury (hopefully) next season, and the long-awaited arrival of the netminding-Messiah Carter Hart. If that were to happen, there’s still one obstacle in Alex Lyon’s journey back to the NHL.
The Flyers currently have three goaltenders under contract. They have the rights to RFA Petr Mrazek, who will probably find himself a UFA once the Flyers decide not to tender an offer. They also have the incumbent tandem of Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth. Both goalies went down due to injuries multiple times this past season, with Neuvirth making it more of a hobby than anything, so if it came down to it, Neuvirth could find himself being the odd man out if Lyon becomes a full-time big leaguer.
The Flyers will have to find a trade partner for Neuvirth, but we all know how Ron Hextall operates. No, we don’t but we know he has a knack for pulling off some miraculous trades (Zac Rinaldo for a third rounder, anyone?) If Lyon ends up a Flyer next season, expect Neuvirth to get moved either at the draft, or afterwards, probably for nothing more than a 5th rounder.
The icing on the cake to a picture perfect call-up scenario would envision Alex Lyon winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup Playoff MVP. Lyon would join the ranks of Carey Price and Olie the Goalie in winning those awards, and they ended up being pretty solid NHL goaltenders. Others, such as Robin Lehner and Michael Neuvirth have won the award as well, and went on to have decent NHL careers.
Alex Lyon as a backup NHL goaltender has already happened. He relieved Elliott and Neuvirth in a pinch, and posted OK numbers. In 11 games, he has a 4-2-1 record with a 2.75 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Considering the numbers for Flyers goalies over the past few years, he isn’t that far off from being a mainstay on the roster. However, considering the success of past Calder Cup winning goalies and Butterfield Award Winners, Lyon could have a solid shot at becoming a very serviceable backup to Brian Elliott with the Philadelphia Flyers next year.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports