Goaltending Will Always Be a Problem for the Flyers
By Patrick Hoffman
If you're a Philadelphia Flyers fan, than you know your favorite hockey team has had one consistent problem for the past few decades.
That problem reared its ugly head in Game one of their first round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Broad Street Bullies lost the game 7-0 and while it was an ugly game all around for them, there was a main culprit.
Simply put, starting goaltender Brian Elliott was terrible in the first game of the series. Believe it or not, I am actually being nice saying it this way.
Elliott, 33, stopped just 14 of 19 shots and looked uncomfortable between the pipes. In fact, it could be said he looked exactly like he did last season in the playoffs for the Calgary Flames against the Anaheim Ducks, which wasn't very good as he wne 0-3 with a 3.89 goals against average and a .880 save percentage.
While it's just one game, Elliott's play between the pipes once again points out a huge hole that this franchise has had for years. Unfortunately, the team and its management have not been able to plug and it has led to regular season failures, playoff failures, and just a general lack of confidence in the position that is supposed to help your hockey team.
The main issue when it comes to the franchise's goaltending is consistency. There are nights when the team's goaltender is excellent and then the very next game, that same netminder looks like a completely different masked man.
Elliott is the perfect example of this. Not only has he shown that with the Flyers this season, but he also showed it in his previous stops with the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and Ottawa Senators.
Yes, Elliott puts up solid, but not spectacular, regular season numbers. However, he's never been good enough to get his team to a Stanley Cup Final and that will be the case this season as well.
Elliott is not the only one who has not been able to get this franchise to the next level. Guys like Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Ilya Bryzgalov, Robert Esche, Martin Biron, Roman Cechmanek, Brian Boucher, John Vanbiesbrouck, all failed in trying to help this team win a Cup.
So, who is the answer in net? It's not Elliott, Neuvirth, or Petr Mrazek. While these guys may be solid enough in the regular season to get their team into the playoffs, they simply do not and will not get the job done during the most important time of the season.
If you read my email interview with @Barstool Jordie, Jordan brought up the name Carter Hart and based on what he's done in juniors, Jordan believes there is a chance that he can be the guy that provides the Flyers with steady and consistent goaltending in both the regular season and the playoffs:
He is pegged to be the long-awaited savior for the Flyers in between the pipes. Chances are that he'll spend the majority of next season playing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL while he still develops a bit.
After next year I think there's a legitimate shot that he comes in and takes over as the starting goalie for the Flyers. He's been lights out in junior and as long as he continues on the trajectory where people think he's on, he has a chance to become an elite goaltender in the NHL.
This MUST happen for the Flyers. The Flyers need a goaltender that can go wire to wire being a solid goaltender and give them a chance to win the Cup.
The last time the Flyers had someone like that was back in the 80's and 90's in Ron Hextall, the team's current general manager. That's far too long to not have developed a true starter in this league.
Hopefully, Hart can be the answer because if he's not, this franchise will continue to have same problem that has plagued them for the last 20 years.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.