The old adage in hockey is that if you have two good goaltenders, the reality is, you have none. And that could not be more appropriate for the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers. Steve Mason has been very good at times, while tough to watch in others. Michal Neuvirth has played “okay”, but he cannot stay healthy. The sentiment around the Flyers this year, with both goalies being in their contract years, would be for them to fight it out throughout the season, and at the end, the better goalie gets the extension. Well, between the inconsistency and brutal defense at times, it’s tough to get a gauge where their goalie situation sits.
Lets start with Mason. Last year he was brilliant over the final month of last season, carrying the Flyers into the playoffs before running out of gas against Washington in the first round. This season, has been an up and down year for him. He played great during the teams ten game winning streak, yet struggled on other nights.
At 14-13-0-6 with a 2.79 goals against and a .903 save percentage, Mason’s play has defined your average NHL goalie. Now no one is going to mistake the current Flyers defense for the New Jersey Devils teams of the 90’s, but at the end of the day, the numbers do not lie. Does Mason play better when he knows he is the number one? Absolutely. But he needs to play like the number one that he wants to be.
The case for Neuvirth is a little more tricky. He has never played more than 48 games in a season. And even last year, he missed significant time with a lower body injury when the team was making the push towards the postseason.
Neuvirth was brilliant last year and in the playoffs, but during the regular season he still only played 32 games. And this season, his contract year, he misses six weeks with a lower body injury. He simply cannot be trusted to be there when it counts.
The Flyers have some of the best young goalies in their farm system (Anthony Stolarz, Carter Hart, Felix Sandstrom). Stolarz has shown he is capable of taking some of the workload. What the Flyers need to do is sign Mason to be the stopgap while these young goalies develop more and trade Neuvirth (St. Louis or Los Angeles perhaps). The Flyers are not built to win now. They are a year or two away. But the experience the young guys can get would be invaluable to their future if given the chance.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports