Flyers goaltenders set to shine in NHL playoffs
Ron Hextall’s fingerprints are still all over the Philadelphia Flyers. Look no further than the position Hextall played when he dressed in orange and black. A season after the anomaly and horror of eight exhausted goalkeepers in 2018-19, the Flyers have solidified in the post. From Carter Hart to Alex Lyon, Philadelphia fans can breathe when they think of the goalie job.
For a brief period of the 2019-20 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were without Carter Hart. Only three games this season have included Alex Lyon. There was an allergic reaction of “no, not yet” when Hart was injured. Last season was enough of a nightmare for the goalkeeper to spark such a reaction. Looking back, Lyon and Brian Elliott did well enough to keep the Flyers competitive against playoff teams.
Having a steady tandem of goalies who can win at the NHL level is essential to a franchise’s success. Good performance between the pipes complements strong defensive performances and an overwhelming ability to win face-offs. This 2019-20 season is a simple math. Possession time plus defensive pressure equals a quality start for a goalie. This has happened to the Philadelphia Flyers more times than ever.
Today we are just over a month away from the July 30 start date of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the Philadelphia Flyers to advance to the Stanley Cup Final , they must outlive all the other teams in the Eastern Conference. To win the Stanley Cup in 2020, that means being the lone survivor against eleven other Eastern Conference teams instead of the usual seven. A 24-team format means this Stanley Cup Championship could be the toughest in league history to win. The question becomes, how do Flyers goaltenders fare against playoff teams?
It is noted for all teams involved in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs that there is no real “home ice advantage”. That makes Carter Hart’s case in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs an interesting take. With the home ice advantage in 2019-20, Hart was 20-3-2. Neutral ice doesn’t add an extra dimension of adrenaline, like playing at home. If Hart can put together a playoff series that looks like something close to that success on neutral ice, it will do wonderful things for his overall confidence against major NHL opponents.
Against Eastern Conference teams in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carter Hart is 13-5-1. Of those eleven Eastern Conference playoff teams, Hart faces the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. In a regular season where Hart was appalling on the road, he holds a road victory over all three Eastern Conference playoff teams. He is undefeated against the Rangers. Hart struggles the most with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winless in two starts.
On the other side of the coin, the lack of a “home advantage” can comfortably play in Brian Elliott’s favor. During the regular season, Elliott was able to keep the Philadelphia Flyers ship afloat while on the road. By comparison, Elliott was 12-5-2 from Wells Fargo Center while Carter Hart was 4-10-1. After looking at those records side by side, the Flyers shouldn’t hesitate to face Elliott in a round robin game if Hart struggles. Elliott is one of the best alternate goaltenders in the NHL, and Philadelphia has done a good deal with him.
Against the Eastern Conference playoffs, Brian Elliott is 9-2-4. He faces the best against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals. Between his strengths and Carter Hart’s against round robin opponents, which is why I think the Philadelphia Flyers could be reclassified as second seed in the Eastern Conference. Elliott is undefeated against the Blue Jackets and the Capitals. He fights the most against the New York Islanders, winless in two starts.
Since the Philadelphia Flyers will be able to carry five more 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 was injured against the Boston Bruins. Having another healthy goalie is worth the investment. Against the hen of the playoffs in 2020, Lyon took another turn. He only faced the Montreal Canadiens in the entire Eastern Conference playoff group.
Between his two starts in the 2019-2020 regular season, Alex Lyon is 1-1-0. He is winless in the Eastern Conference and undefeated in the Western Conference. Lyon are a real wild card for the Philadelphia Flyers, but they hold a victory against a team in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoff round robin. That team is the Colorado Avalanche, who I predict will represent the Conference. of the West in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s only one win, but one against a potential championship team.
Photo credit: Alex Mcintyre