Ron Hextall’s fingerprints are still all over the Philadelphia Flyers. Look no further than the position that Hextall used to play when he dressed in orange and black. One season after the anomaly and horror of eight goaltenders being exhausted in 2018-2019, the Flyers solidified at the position. From Carter Hart to Alex Lyon, the fanbase in Philadelphia can breathe when they think about the goaltender position.
For a brief time in the 2019-2020 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were without Carter Hart. Only three games this season included Alex Lyon. There was an allergic reaction of “no, not again” when Hart was injured. Last season was enough of a nightmare at goaltender to elicit such a response. In hindsight, Lyon and Brian Elliott did well enough to keep the Flyers competitive against playoff teams.
Having a routine tandem of goaltenders that can win at the NHL level is vital to a franchise’s success. Good performances between the pipes compliment solid defensive performances and an overwhelming ability to win faceoffs. This 2019-2020 season is simple math. Time of possession plus defensive pressure equals a quality start for a goaltender. That has happened for the Philadelphia Flyers more times that it has not.
Today, we’re just over a month away from the July 30th start date of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Philadelphia Flyers to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, they have to outlast every other team in the Eastern Conference. To win the Stanley Cup in 2020, that means being the sole survivor against eleven other Eastern Conference teams instead of the usual seven. A 24-team format means that this Stanley Cup championship could be the hardest in league history to win. The question becomes, how do the Flyers goaltenders fare when facing the playoff teams?
It’s noted for all teams involved in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs that there isn’t a real “home-ice advantage.” This makes the case for Carter Hart in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs an interesting take. With the home-ice advantage in 2019-2020, Hart had a record of 20-3-2. Neutral ice doesn’t provide an extra dimension of adrenaline, like playing at home does. If Hart can put together a playoff run that resembles anything close to that success on neutral ice, it will do wonderful things for his overall confidence against premier NHL opponents.
Against the Eastern Conference teams in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Carter Hart is 13-5-1. Of those eleven Eastern Conference playoff teams, Hart matches up the best against the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, and New York Rangers. In a regular-season when Hart was abysmal on the road, he does hold a road victory over these three Eastern Conference playoff teams. He’s undefeated against the Rangers. Hart struggles the most with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winless in two starts.
On the opposite side of the coin, the lack of a “home-ice advantage” may play comfortably in favor of Brian Elliott. During the regular season, Elliott was able to keep the Philadelphia Flyers ship afloat while on the road. Comparatively speaking, Elliott was 12-5-2 away from the Wells Fargo Center when Carter Hart was 4-10-1. After looking at those records side-by-side, the Flyers shouldn’t be hesitant to play Elliott in a round-robin game if Hart struggles. Elliott is one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL, and Philadelphia has him on a bargain.
Versus playoff teams from the Eastern Conference, Brian Elliott touts a 9-2-4 record. He matches up the best against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals. Between his and Carter Hart’s strengths against round-robin opponents, it’s why I think the Philadelphia Flyers could be re-seeded as a second seed in the Eastern Conference. Elliott is undefeated against the Blue Jackets and the Capitals. He struggles the most against the New York Islanders, winless in two starts.
Since the Philadelphia Flyers will be able to carry five additional players on the roster for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Lyon has to be a lock. I always think back to the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs when Brian Boucher got hurt against the Boston Bruins. Having another goaltender healthy is worth the investment. Against the playoff pool in 2020, Lyon’s cut from a different cloth. He has only played the Montreal Canadiens out of the entire Eastern Conference playoff pool.
Between his two starts in the 2019-2020 regular season, Alex Lyon is 1-1-0. He’s winless in the Eastern Conference and undefeated in the Western Conference. Lyon’s a true wildcard for the Philadelphia Flyers, but he owns a win against a 2020 Stanley Cup playoff round-robin team. That team is the Colorado Avalanche, who I predict will represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s only a single victory, but one against a potential championship team.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre