NEW YORK — When Anthony Stolarz thinks his situation can’t get any more adverse than it’s been over the past 18 months, he just reminds himself of his father’s job to help gain some perspective.
“My worst days are still not close to his best day,” Stolarz said. “When you put things [in perspective] like that, you just kind of enjoy every day, enjoy being around the guys and enjoy playing in buildings like this.”
John Stolarz's profession is that of a shipping clerk in a chemical plant back in Anthony’s hometown.
It doesn't get much more blue collar than dealing with hazardous waste shipments and waste disposal, so if Stolarz has to get his pads dirty for 60 minutes at the World’s Most Famous Arena, consider it a rather easy task.
“Sometimes games like this are a little stressful, but it comes with the job,” Stolarz said of his 38-save masterpiece Tuesday in a 1-0 win over the Rangers (see observations).
There’s a certain level of amazement to how Stolarz even got here. Two surgeries to repair a torn meniscus in each knee along with three rehab assignments with the Reading Royals of the ECHL, and at one point, the odd man out when the Phantoms had three goalies.
He’s nearly seven years removed from his draft year, yet in terms of games played in the NHL, the 25-year-old Stolarz is not that much different than 20-year-old Carter Hart.
“The thing that’s most impressive is what he’s had to go through this year and last year,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “That’s not easy.”
In all likelihood, Stolarz solidified his spot in Philadelphia.
At least for the remainder of this season.
Whereas Hart can be conveniently shuttled between the big club and the Phantoms, the same luxury no longer applies for Stolarz, who would have to clear waivers to play with Lehigh Valley.
Back in October, then-general manager Ron Hextall was able to successfully do it prior to the start of the season, but there’s very little chance of sneaking Stolarz past 30 other teams now, especially with injuries across the league. If Stolarz’s injury history scared teams off before, his resiliency alone is worth taking a shot at.
The question moving forward is where does Stolarz fit in the Flyers' grand scheme of goaltending? He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
“I can’t even think about that with the way things have gone,” Gordon said. “We obviously have Brian Elliott coming back. Realistically, we could wind up playing with three goalies here with the uncertainty of where Brian’s going to be.”
Ideally, a Hart-Stolarz tandem seems like the way to go, but there’s a lot of risk and inexperience that comes with that. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Monday that he’ll be looking outside the organization for more goaltending as he plans ahead for the 2019-20 season and beyond.
“We’re certainly going to need one, if not two, veteran goalies at some capacity,” Fletcher said. “So that’ll all play out, but you can never have enough goalies. That’s not only the Flyers. You look around the league, so many goalies get banged up.”
But very few can get banged up and get back up as Stolarz has.
Perhaps, it’s just part of his chemical makeup.
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