Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

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Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

When the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit out of necessity in February, Ron Hextall explained the trade as a reward for his players’ hard work.

“We’re in a tough situation — you lose your top two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot,” Hextall said then, “and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.”

One month later, Mrazek has been erratic, and the Flyers’ grip on a playoff spot is loosening. With eight games remaining, Dave Hakstol owes it to his players to ride the steadier goalie, and that's not the proven NHL goaltender.

For the second time in six days, Hakstol was forced to pull Mrazek on Tuesday night, and for the second time in six days, Alex Lyon battled in relief, giving the Flyers a chance in a game they otherwise had no business being in.

Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots Tuesday, holding off a determined Red Wings team and allowing the Flyers to fight back from a 3-1 deficit and force overtime. They lost, 5-4, in a shootout, but the point was huge.

We’re tired of hearing that too. But at this stage, and with how the Flyers have played in March, any point is needed. The goal is the playoffs, and right now, the Flyers cannot trust Mrazek.

What we’ve seen from Mrazek in his short time here explains why the Red Wings soured on him.

Mrazek showed glimpses of his potential in his first three starts as a Flyer, but since, he’s been inconsistent and unreliable.

In his last nine games, Mrazek’s 2-5-1 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. He's allowed fewer than three goals just once. There have been far too many bad goals along the way too.

Last Thursday, Mrazek was pulled after yielding his fourth goal against the Blue Jackets, a team the Flyers are jockeying with for playoff position in the Metropolitan Division.

That relief appearance earned Lyon the start Saturday in Carolina, where he was again steady. Hakstol went back to Mrazek on Sunday and then again Tuesday.

Now, it’s time to ride Lyon until the rookie shows wear on his tires and until either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth is healthy enough to return, which likely will not be until closer to the final week of the season.

Lyon has not looked out of place since his second call-up of the season Feb. 11. In six games — three starts — he has a .933 save percentage.

The 25-year-old passes both the numbers and eye test, and it’s time to show faith in him.

After Tuesday’s loss, the Flyers dropped to the top wild-card spot, with Columbus leapfrogging them to third in the Metro. Both teams have eight games left. The Flyers are four points ahead of the Devils, who have one game in hand.

Then, there are the Panthers, five points behind the Flyers with three games in hand. Per Hockey-Reference, the Flyers have an 88.8 percent chance at the postseason.

We’ve seen crazier collapses happen, though. When March began, the Flyers were one point behind the first-place Capitals. They’ve picked up just eight of a possible 22 points this month.

At this point, it’s about surviving, and Lyon gives the Flyers a better shot to stay above the line than Mrazek.

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

The Flyers endured a rough week, going 1-3-0 to unofficially kick themselves out of the playoff chase.

From Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers were neck and neck with the Lightning as both teams went an identical 18-4-2 for a league-most 38 points. The Flyers even scored nine more goals than Tampa Bay during that stretch.

But it looks like they've run out of gas and the focus is shifting to 2019-20.

Let's get into that and more with our latest weekly observations:

• There should be excitement over Joel Farabee.

He just seems like a kid that fits this city.

The No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 draft signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers on Monday after a superb freshman season at Boston University (see story). That means he will turn pro in 2019-20, most likely with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

But Farabee has been a quick riser, so don't put a timeline on his climb to the Flyers.

The 19-year-old is a strategic goal-scoring winger, utilizing his smarts and skill to beat goalies in a variety of ways.

He's also a hard-worker.

A moment that stuck out from development camp last summer was when he asked for extra instruction following an afternoon session. After getting some tips, he shook the coach's hand and thanked him. It was Scott Gordon, now the Flyers' interim head coach.

"I've got to learn a lot to make it to the next level," Farabee said after that practice, "so I'm just trying to get as much information as I can to be a better player."

• Speaking of Gordon, he has gone 24-17-4 as interim head coach after being summoned from the Phantoms to take over for Dave Hakstol, who was fired following a 12-15-4 start.

On the day Hakstol was relieved of his duties, general manager Chuck Fletcher made it clear Gordon was a candidate for the head coaching gig next season.

Gordon has done a good job. His players have responded well to his messages, he's gotten the best out of the younger pieces and the team became relevant in the postseason race.

We'll have to wait and see what it earns him. A new GM typically likes to hire his own guy, but there's no doubt Gordon has impressed to firmly put his name in the discussion.

He'll have tough decisions over the final six games of the regular season. Does he play Samuel Morin and Cam Talbot for the sake of giving them some looks or does he continue to employ his best possible lineup to win games? The latter will only help his case for where he lands in 2019-20.

• Jakub Voracek, always refreshingly honest, was a tough critic when talking to reporters following Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Capitals:

I felt like in that push we had, we had a good push, but unfortunately every time we got close to three points, five points, and then we played those big teams in front of us, those four-point games, we choked.

I don't want to take anything out of this season, to be honest.

We have to have a good look in the mirror.

It felt like the Flyers needed a clean slate all season. They were able to somewhat reset with a new head coach, but they had already dug too deep of a hole.

Next season, they should have all sorts of motivation. Expectations certainly won't be lowering. After all, the Flyers haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns.

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Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

It’s one and done for Joel Farabee at Boston U.

The Flyers' 2018 first-round selection signed his entry-level contract Monday after one season at Boston University. 

Farabee finished as the Terriers' leading scorer with 36 points in 37 games as Boston University’s season (16-18-4) came to an end Friday night in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament.

However, Farabee’s performance as a 19-year-old freshman was one of the team’s highlights after he finished the regular season on a tear with seven goals over his last nine games and was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. After getting acclimated to the collegiate game, Farabee adapted very quickly.

Farabee isn’t the only highly-touted prospect to leave BU after just one season. Buffalo’s Jack Eichel left after scoring 71 points in 40 games before the Sabres grabbed him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

Unlike CHL prospects, who can sign entry-level deals and still compete at the major junior level, Farabee forfeits the remainder of his college eligibility, so the question moving forward is where will Farabee start the 2019-20 season?

He can make the Flyers out of training camp or start his first year of professional hockey at Lehigh Valley.

Farabee needs to develop physically but the hockey IQ and playmaking ability coupled with high character are all important attributes that he brings to the pro level.

Farabee was the Flyers' first draft pick to come from the U.S. national team development program (USNTDP) since James van Riemsdyk was selected second overall in 2007. 

JVR spent two years at the University of New Hampshire before electing to turn pro. The Flyers' left winger played just seven games with the Phantoms in 2008 before earning an NHL promotion.

There’s a debate as to whether Farabee or Morgan Frost, the Flyers' 2017 first-round pick, is the organization’s top prospect. Personally, I think Farabee has a more NHL-ready game right now, and he’ll get the chance to prove that when training camp commences in September.

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