Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.
Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.
“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.
“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”
Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.
Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.
His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.
“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”
He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.
Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.
The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.
“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”
Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.
Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.