Have the Flyers Lost Faith in Young Goaltender Anthony Stolarz?

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Get ready to stop, drop, and roll, the new look Philadelphia Flyers are ready to compete. The Flyers have a new fresh face in net in goaltender Brian Elliott. With Elliott at the helm the Flyers hope to solve some of the goaltending problems that plagued them last year. Backup goaltender Michael Neuvirth should be more than capable of giving Elliott a breather from time to time. If Neuvirth cannot do such, then who should the Flyers lean on from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms…Anthony Stolarz or Alex Lyon?

It appears that the Flyers are higher on Lyon, rather than Stolarz. From a call with the media, Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall was asked last Monday by a reporter, “What do you think Anthony Stolarz is?”

Hextall stated: “Anthony Stolarz has improved every year in the American League. If the situation was different here, if we had Marty Brodeur here. That might have been a consideration.”

The General Manager continued “As I mentioned before with Neuvy’s track record of injuries, we just didn’t feel comfortable bringing Stolie in at this time. I think the guy we forget about is Alex Lyon. He has done a good job too.”

Some questions people may have is who, when, and why did this happen. These are legitimate concerns. What is more mind-boggling, is why did the Flyers protect Stolarz for the expansion draft? The only logical answer is that Stolarz has seven games of NHL experience, and Hextall was hoping Neuvirth would get selected. So why mention Lyon when responding to the question about Stolarz, as the question didn’t pertain to him? Why put Lyon ahead of Stolarz?

Stolarz was born on January 20, 1994, in Edison, New Jersey. He was selected by the Flyers in the 2nd round of the 2012 NHL Draft. The Flyers drafted him because of his size and height. He is 6’6,” and weighs 220 pounds. “Stolie,” takes a large portion of an NHL Regulation size net.

The young prospect enjoyed his first crack at the NHL level for the Flyers in the 2016-17 season. With Neuvirth on the shelf for a period of a few months due to injury. Stolarz finally got the call he has been waiting for his whole life, to join the Flyers and be Neuvy’s temporary replacement.

“Stolie,” was billed as advertised for the orange and black. In his NHL debut he lead the Flyers to a 5-3 victory against the Calgary Flames on November 27, 2016. During his short seven game stint he amassed a record of 2-1-1 with a 2.07 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. He tracked the puck well, and moved post to post rather smoothly. Stolarz was ultimately sent back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, as Neuvirth returned to the Flyers two months after his knee injury.

On April 12, 2017, Stolarz helped the Phantoms clinch their first playoff berth in seven seasons, with a 2-1 shootout victory against Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, the big win came with a cost, as Stolarz injured his MCL in his knee. It required surgery, and Stolarz was expected to 3-4 months.

The young promising netminder was devastated as one could expect. Stolarz was supposed to be the back-up goaltender for the upcoming 2017-18 season for the Flyers, if he wasn’t selected in the expansion draft. However, Hextall protected Stolarz which prevented the Vegas Golden Knights from selecting him at the expansion draft. Which leads us back to the original question: Why did Hextall protect Stolarz, if he felt very high about Lyon? What future would Stolarz have with the Flyers, as the entire hockey world knew the they were going to snag a goaltender in free agency? There are no clear answers to these questions, it’s only speculation.

Hextall further states in his conference call, “Those two (Lyon and Stolarz) will go back down there and battle it out. The two are very good young goalies, and we will see how it goes with them.”

Lyon began his first full season for the Phantoms in 2016-17. He put up solid numbers, as Lyon finished the season with a 27-14 record, 2.74 GAA, and a .912 save percentage. Stolarz career numbers for the Phantoms are 48-40-11, 3.17 GAA, and a .912 save percentage. Both are different goaltenders, but both have proven to carry the load while one is missing.

According to Hextall in the conference call, “All goalies struggle, that’s why we feel comfortable with a tandem in Brian and Neuvy. I like the potential of our D and goaltending together.”

Whether, Hextall sees something in Lyon or not. It will be interesting to see if God forbid something happens to Elliott or Neuvirth, just who the Flyers will call up to fill in temporarily. That will give us the ultimate answer as to who Hextall has more faith in. In addition, it will give us a clear indication of who the Flyers plan on keeping long-term. The Flyers are loading up with talented goaltenders asides from Lyon and Stolarz, with the likes of Carter Hart, Felix Sandstrom, and Matej Tomek. They will have to answer these very questions in the near future. One thing is certain Flyers fans the future is bright in Flyer land.

 

Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

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