Flyers

Grading the Flyers' goaltenders at the bye week

Grading the Flyers' goaltenders at the bye week

Throughout the bye week, we’ll break down the Flyers by position in assessing our midseason grades.

It’s been a season of goaltending unlike any other with a record number seven different netminders saw action in the first 43 games of the regular season. 

From a 33-year-old veteran to a 20-year-old rookie and everything in between, here are the seven goalies who have appeared in net for the Flyers through the midway point. 

Carter Hart

Grade: A-
Stats: 6-5-1, 2.66 GAA, .918 save percentage, 12 games

Hart is incredibly mature for a 20-year-old rookie who is quickly becoming the story of the season. His four victories lead all NHL goaltenders over the past 10 days coupled with a .932 save percentage over his last seven starts.

With Hart in net, the Flyers' penalty kill has operated at an 88 percent rate of success, not allowing more than one power-play goal in any of his 12 starts. If Hart continues to build upon his impressive NHL start, he might work his way in as a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

Brian Elliott

Grade: B
Stats: 6-7-0, 2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage, 14 games

Provided a sense of stability to the position earlier in the season. The Flyers were 9-9-1 at the time of his injury and 10-14-5 since. Had Elliott stayed healthy, the Flyers very well could be knocking on the playoff door.

Take away the home opener against the Sharks, when the Flyers were a defensive mess, and Elliott has an impressive 2.14 GAA with a .951 save percentage in his other 13 appearances.

Anthony Stolarz

Grade: C-
Stats: 2-3-2, 3.90 GAA, .880 save percentage, 9 games

One of the few goaltenders whose numbers are not indicative of how well he’s played. Has shown a tremendous amount of mental fortitude working his way back from injury. Started with a solid relief appearance in Toronto, where he stopped 33 of 35 shots followed with impressive road victories at Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Was counted on in early December to manage the bulk of the workload with six appearances in a 10-day stretch. If Stolarz can build up his game with the Phantoms over the remainder of this season, then he should be a viable option as a backup to Hart next season. 

Cal Pickard

Grade: D-
Stats: 4-2-2, 4.01 GAA, .863 save percentage, 11 games

A fringe NHL backup, Pickard was snatched off waivers from the Maple Leafs just prior to the season opener. With a 4-2-2 record in eight starts, Pickard has the highest points percentage (.750) of the seven different goalies who have appeared in a game this season.

Pickard’s best start came in a 31-save shutout Nov. 23 against the Rangers, to only follow that up with a disastrous game at Toronto, where he allowed four goals in 12 minutes. Too erratic in net and only steady enough for the occasional spot start.

Michal Neuvirth

Grade: F
Stats: 1-4-1, 4.27 GAA, .859 save percentage, 7 games

Has been an absolutely disastrous season for the 30-year-old free agent who may be playing his final season in the NHL. Can no longer be counted on to stay healthy or be a reliable backup moving forward.

How bad has it been for Neuvirth? Among NHL goalies with at least six starts this season, Neuvirth is 70th out of 71 goalies with an .859 save percentage, and among that group, his one win ties him with Mike McKenna for league low. Neuvirth’s one redeeming stat line — a perfect 4 for 4 in the shootout.

Mike McKenna

Grade: Incomplete
Stats: 0-1-1, 4.22 GAA, .833 save percentage, 1 game

Hard to judge based on one game in net. McKenna allowed four goals in his only start in Washington on Jan. 8. Should be interesting to see how long McKenna remains in Philadelphia with Neuvirth expected to return in the weeks following the All-Star break. 

Should see one of the two back-to-back games coming out of the break, either at home against Winnipeg or in New York. Like Pickard, a borderline NHL goalie who has hung around. McKenna’s only win this season came with the Senators against his current Flyers on Nov. 27.

Alex Lyon

Grade: Incomplete
Stats: 0-1-1, 5.08 GAA, .806 save percentage, 2 games

After filling in admirably during the 2017-18 season, Lyon appeared out of place during his one start in Buffalo, where he was pulled after four first-period goals. Didn’t look much better in his next appearance, replacing an injured Stolarz in Vancouver a month later.

Barring another onslaught of injuries, it’s doubtful that Lyon will see action with the Flyers again this season.

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Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

Flyers weekly observations: Scott Laughton's importance, high praise for Ivan Provorov

While the Flyers lost their winning streak and point streak, they still put together a productive 2-1-0 week.

Alain Vigneault's team is 7-1-1 over its last nine games, a stretch in which the Flyers have allowed 2.11 goals per game. Since Nov. 1, the Flyers are 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for most points in the NHL at 28, continuing to make strides under the new coaching staff.

We'll get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Scott Laughton's performance in Saturday's emotion-filled 4-3 win over the Senators served as a microcosm of his importance to the Flyers.

The team-first attitude, the hard skating, the physicality, the forechecking, the penalty killing and the secondary scoring.

He is not undervalued by the Flyers.

If I look at today’s game where it got heated, he’s one of the guys I thought that responded the best. He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that — he did both of those things.

As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice.

- Vigneault

And check out these marks: the Flyers are 7-0-0 when Laughton records a point and 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of a broken finger.

• In 30 games, Ivan Provorov has already matched his goal total from last season (seven) and set career highs on the power play (four goals, six assists).

He's projected to pass his numbers from a breakout 2017-18 season in which he scored 17 goals and 41 points. The 22-year-old's rebound from his letdown 2018-19 campaign might be the most impactful development to the Flyers' overall rebound so far in 2019-20.

Before the Coyotes' 3-1 win Thursday over the Flyers, Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet extolled Provorov.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said, via Coyotes public relations.

"He plays with an edge in a sense that he doesn’t play safe. He’s up the ice, he makes plays, he’s not scared the way he plays. Not so much scared physically, just the way he plays, he’s trying to win the game. As a young guy, he wants to be in those spots. When I watch him, he wants the puck. I love young kids like that, they’re not scared.”

When asked if Provorov reminded him of anyone, Tocchet said "a little bit of Phil Housley," who is a Hall of Fame blueliner and now an assistant coach with Arizona.

• Carter Hart owns 10 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average.

By Dec. 8 of last season, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon had combined for 12 wins and a 3.30 goals-against average.

As much as some people want to knock the previous coaching staff, the Flyers were a mess in net at this point last season and things predictably unraveled. Really, from the outset of 2018-19, things were problematic between the pipes for the Flyers.

• One of the biggest signs of growth with the 2019-20 Flyers has been goal prevention. They've allowed 80 goals through 30 games. In 30 games last season, the Flyers gave up 111. That's 31 more goals.

A lot goes into that — goaltending and offseason acquisitions to name a few. But Vigneault's system has turned the Flyers into a more structured team.

Much more often compared to 2018-19, the Flyers, even if they're struggling to score, look like they're controlling games instead of letting the opposition do the honors. Through 30 games last season, the Flyers had 11 losses by three goals or more. This season, they have only four such defeats.

 

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Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Suffice it to say Scott Laughton got the best of the Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

He was the first star in the Flyers' 4-3 victory, scored the game-winning goal during the third period, added an assist, stood up for his teammates and got under the skin of Ottawa forward Brady Tkachuk.

So much so that Tkachuk went after Laughton, crosschecking the 25-year-old forward in the back and jumping him during the final minute of regulation. The NHL reacted quickly to the play, fining Tkachuk $2,486.56, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

Following his third-period marker, Laughton had words for the Senators' bench. He was fired up, especially after Ottawa's hits on Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee, which led to some fights. Laughton could not partake in the dropping of the gloves because he recently returned following surgery on a broken finger, which is still healing.


I knew it was coming. It’s part of the game when you do that stuff and chirp the bench, you know it’s going to come. I just can’t drop my gloves right now with my finger and everything. I’ve got some padding there so once I do that, I guess it’s a penalty or something. That’s just the way it went.

- Laughton

But Laughton still had the backs of his teammates. He was physical throughout, especially after the first-period hits on Konecny and Farabee. He also allowed his game to do the talking.

Laughton has four goals in his last six contests and the Flyers are 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of the finger injury.

Would Laughton have liked to fight?

"Yeah," he said.

He did plenty enough.

Tkachuk's crosscheck and check to the league are proof of Laughton's work.

 

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