2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

2016-17 Flyers evaluation: Goaltending

We begin our series reviewing the Flyers' 2016-17 roster with a look at the goaltenders. This is the first part of a four-part series.

What should have been a genuine competition in net for two players to win the prize of a long-term contract never did pan out for the Flyers this season.

Coming out of training camp, general manager Ron Hextall said goaltending was going to be the club's biggest strength with two goalies -- Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth -- essentially being 1-A and 1-B.

Instead, they both failed terribly with inconsistent performances that mirrored the skaters in front of them.

With Neuvirth already locked up for next season, all signs point to Mason leaving via free agency. That means Hextall has to find a replacement for Mason.

"We'll use the best option that's realistic for us," Hextall said recently. "Obviously, you've got salary cap, you've got term. There's a lot of factors that go into this. It's not just one. It's not just OK, let's go out and get the best goalie, whoever that might be.

"If we can get him, there's more to it than that. We'll work through our process here and in the end, we'll figure out what's our best option for next year, and the following year and after. We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it. 

"I don't have a lot of interest in getting into a long, drawn-out deal with a goaltender, but again we'll look at our options and move when we feel is our best option at the appropriate time."

Here's our look at the goaltenders (alphabetically) this past season.

Steve Mason 
Age: Turns 29 on May 29
Record: 58 GP; 26-21-8
Stats: 2.66 GAA; .908 SV%
Cap hit: UFA who earned $4.1 million

We've got to give Mason this much credit: For a guy dealing from the bottom of the deck, he has a lot of guts. How else can you explain how he went into Hextall's office on breakup day and asked to know his status ASAP and oh, one more: I didn't like Dave Hakstol's goalie platoon idea, and if you want me back, that's a dealbreaker. This was Mason's poorest season among the four full ones in Philadelphia. He, like Neuvirth, was maddeningly inconsistent right from the get-go until the final 17 games, when he produced some impressive numbers as the club's true No. 1 -- 10-5-2 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts. In between, anything else was possible. There's a reason why the Flyers didn't re-sign him in-season like they did with Neuvirth. They feel he's going to want more term, more money and they have a slew of talent in the minors and Europe itching to get a chance to play in Philadelphia. At least one of the four goalie prospects will be NHL-ready within two years. Mason talked like a goalie going out the door down the stretch and yet, he played like one deserving of a new contract over the final month-plus. His unedited yet honest criticism of the team on a nightly basis earned him the respect of the media but did little to gather support within the room from teammates. Many felt he needed to shut his mouth. There are two kinds of goalies: those you play for and those you play in front of. The feeling was more than a few Flyers would choose the latter and those are not the type of goalies teams rally around to win Stanley Cups. It appears management realizes that could be a problem. He'll most likely go to free agency.

Michal Neuvirth 
Age: Turned 29 on March 23 
Record: 28 GP; 11-11-1
Stats: 2.82 GAA; .891 SV%
Cap hit: $2.5 million (re-signed in-season)

After a strong playoff performance in 2016 in which he showed he could be a No. 1 goalie again, Neuvirth came into the season much like Mason, knowing a good year would mean a new deal. Well, he got a two-year contract at a reduced price because of injury. A left knee strain caused him to miss 24 games this season. His start was poor -- e.g. four goals against on 16 shots vs. Chicago -- and despite a few wins, he continued to give up too many goals, showed some promise in February, but never really gained his footing in the crease. To his credit, he doesn't pout when he's not playing and he almost never criticizes the club in such a way as to offend his teammates. And teammates respect him for that. Near the end of the year, he collapsed in net from a sinus infection and dehydration and then concussed himself by passing out backward onto the ice. Hextall is convinced he'll have a bounce-back season next year, but the bottom line is that he'll never survive a full season and 30-32 games played is the most you can count on from him. Given the club chose him over Mason to re-sign, it's unlikely he'll be exposed in the expansion draft.

Anthony Stolarz
Age: Turns 24 on Jan. 20 
Record: 7 GP; 2-1-0
Stats: 1.93 GAA; .936 SV%
Cap hit: RFA, who earned $753,333 (pro-rated)

Remember the movie There's Something About Mary? Well, if the Flyers produced such a movie, it might be titled, There's Something About Stolie. As in, there's something about this 6-foot-6 giant that the organization doesn't like. Maybe it's his mechanics, which seem awkward at times. Or maybe it's because some in the Flyers' organization feel he makes the tough saves but gives up the easy one down low, or whiffs with the glove hand. He only had seven appearances this season. Hakstol flatly refused to play him when Neuvirth was injured -- Mason got 22 starts -- and that showed a lack of confidence. That apparently extends to Hextall as well. When asked during his after-the-season press conference whether he would be comfortable with Neuvirth as his starter and Stolarz as his backup next season, Hextall didn't answer the question in affirmative fashion. With Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstorm all vying for the same opportunity Stolarz got in limited doses, the position of backup on this club remains unsolved. The door is not shut on Stolarz yet, but it's not fully open either. Stolarz suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee at season's end with the Phantoms and will miss up to four months. All meniscus tears require surgery. This is worse than an MCL sprain. The 23-year-old needs to have a great training camp to change people's minds in the organization that he's the real deal. And that's complicated by the fact his injury now sets him back. Expect him to be exposed in the expansion draft.

Up next: A look back at the defense.

Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

USA Today Images

Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brandon Montour scored a power-play goal, helping lift the Anaheim Ducks into third place in the Pacific Division with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist, and Jakob Silfverberg also scored for the Ducks, who lead Los Angeles by two points in the division. Anaheim won its third straight game and is 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

John Gibson made 15 saves, improving to 9-2-0 in his last 11 starts.

Kyle Palmieri had a power-play goal and Patrick Maroon also scored for the Devils, who had won the first three games of their six-game road trip. Keith Kinkaid made 32 saves, ending a four-start winning streak.

New Jersey holds the second wild-card in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of Florida (see full recap).

Karlsson's hat trick helps Vegas beat Flames
LAS VEGAS -- William Karlsson scored a natural hat trick to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

Colin Miller also scored as Vegas snapped a four-game home losing streak and improved to 25-9-2 at T Mobile Arena.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made his 20th start in 21 games, made 42 saves. In getting his 48th career shutout and fourth of the season, Fleury moved into a tie with Chris Osgood for 12th all-time amongst goaltenders at 401.

Vegas improved to 3-0-0 against Calgary while outscoring the Flames 15-5. The teams meet once more, in the regular-season finale at Calgary on April 7 (see full recap).

Laine scores twice, matches Ovechkin for NHL goal lead
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Patrik Laine scored twice to extend his point streak to 15 games and tie Alex Ovechkin for the NHL goal lead, and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Sunday night to match the franchise wins record at 43.

The second-year sniper has 43 goals, matching the total from Ovechkin, the Washington star and Laine's boyhood favorite. Laine's point streak is the longest active run in the NHL and adds to his league record for the longest point streak by a teenager. The streak includes 18 goals and eight assists.

Ben Chiarot also scored and Blake Wheeler added an empty-netter for Winnipeg.

Mattias Janmark and Jamie Benn each scored for Dallas (see full recap).

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

If there was an NHL handbook on how to score goals in the most competitive hockey league in the world, you would have thought Oskar Lindblom would have read it forward and backward, on the charter to the Flyers' next road game and at night before bedtime.

From effort to playing at both ends of the ice, Lindblom had done everything to score a goal, except actually score one.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Carolina, Lindblom had played his first 12 games without registering a single point and it was starting to become a source of playful dissing and mockery in the Flyers' locker room.

“Teammates keep him loose,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think Alex Lyon was giving him the gears. I think Alex should have had an assist last night (in Carolina). I don’t know if he was credited with one or not, but I think Alex was chirping (Oskar) about having more points per game than he did, and that’s what guys do.”

However, the official scoresheet from the 4-2 win in Carolina had Lindblom credited with his first NHL assist and Lyon still looking for one. Prior to that, the zeroes next to Lindblom’s game were starting to add up and Hakstol sensed the 21-year-old rookie was taking notice.  

“I don’t remember the game last week, but he had a great opportunity off a rebound at net front,” Hakstol said. “That was the first time I saw a little bit of frustration creep in where he let it show. Oskar is a good offensive player. He wants to help by doing his part offensively, but I think what he just continued to concentrate on is just playing good hockey.”

Sunday that first goal finally arrived in the form of a snapshot that beat Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer up high. It gave the Flyers a lead they never relinquished in a 6-3 win over Washington.

“I don’t want to think about it anymore,” Lindblom said. “Got the first one today and it was a huge one in the game so it was good.”

And with that, the Swede slipped on the Ric Flair victory robe for the first time, handed down from the Finnish Valtteri Filppula, who was presented the feather-laced garment the night before in Carolina. 

Prior to that, the only thing Lindblom had received was encouragement and support from his teammates who knew his time would eventually come. With an easy-going smile and a personality to match, Lindblom’s fellow Flyers couldn’t help but root for him. 

“We’re all happy for him," Travis Konecny said. “It’s been paying off for him. He deserves it. He works hard at both ends of the ice. I’m personally happy for him.

“He’s got that offensive skill that’s far and few between that a lot of guys don’t have. He just has a knack around the net, he’s always around the puck. We all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

Apparently, everyone seemed to know and especially Jake Voracek, who’s been assisting in every way possible.

“He talks to me a lot,” Lindblom said. “He tried to calm me down a little bit. It’s good for me.”