Brian Elliott

On top of a new GM, just about anything can happen for Flyers in net

On top of a new GM, just about anything can happen for Flyers in net

The Flyers' goalie situation will be an area to clean up — or at least amend — for the new general manager.

It's been a mess this season.

Already, the Flyers have played five goalies, a group that has combined for a league-worst .879 save percentage. As a team, the Flyers are allowing the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.58.

One of those five goaltenders, Calvin Pickard, was placed on waivers Wednesday and claimed Thursday by the Coyotes.

So where do the Flyers stand now in net? Let's take a look:

Brian Elliott

Head coach Dave Hakstol on Tuesday said the 33-year-old is week to week with his lower-body injury. Elliott was on the ice Wednesday and the Flyers desperately need him — not only now, but to stay healthy.

That'll be a big concern when he returns. The injury appears to be a groin issue and Elliott also underwent core muscle surgery last season in February.

Prior to the Nov. 15 game in which he suffered this injury, Elliott had been playing well over his previous eight outings, going 5-3-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

Michal Neuvirth

The oft-injured goalie is considered day to day but appears ready to return from a lower-body injury, especially given Pickard is gone and Anthony Stolarz is the only healthy goalie currently on the roster.

Similar to Elliott, the question is how much will the Flyers get out of Neuvirth?

After coming back from an injury he sustained in the preseason, Neuvirth played one game Oct. 27 before going right back on the shelf.

He could be the guy Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Stolarz

The 24-year-old is here but probably for not much longer. In Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Senators, Stolarz made his first NHL start since April 9, 2017.

When Elliott returns — or another goalie arrives — Stolarz will head back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Alex Lyon

The 25-year-old did not look sharp in his one game, a 5-2 loss to the Sabres last week. He allowed four goals on 12 shots before being pulled after the first period.

He's back with the Phantoms.

Carter Hart

Yes, we're mentioning Hart. Given his name came up in Tuesday's press conference with Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott, that's enough to list him here.

Deemed by many as the goalie of the future, the 20-year-old Hart has shown he clearly still needs time to develop at Lehigh Valley. In his first year with the Phantoms, Hart is 5-4-2 with a 3.61 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.

But who knows, it seems like everyone is getting a crack with the Flyers this season. We'll have to wait and see how the new GM wants to approach Hart's situation — and the Flyers' situation overall in net (see story).

Outside options

Scott Darling was placed on waivers Thursday by the Hurricanes. He's 29 years old, 6-foot-5 and went 2-4-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in seven games with Carolina this season.

Also, you can bet the Flyers will be actively looking leading up to the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Time will tell where the team is with its goalies and in the standings come closer to that date.

A lot can change across the league, but here's a look at the netminders set to become unrestricted free agents in 2019-20 that the Flyers could swing for at the deadline or in the offseason.

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Between the pipes, Ron Hextall's patience and process being pushed to the brink

Between the pipes, Ron Hextall's patience and process being pushed to the brink

Ron Hextall, a build-from-within ideologist, is having his belief system tested.

In fact, the staunchness behind that belief system has come back to bite the Flyers — and it took only 19 games into the season.

Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are the Flyers' placeholders. The organization has its plan with young goalies waiting in the wings — one, in particular, by the name of Carter Hart.

But those prospects haven't been deemed ready. And Hextall's vision since taking over as general manager in May 2014 has always been competitiveness in the present with a keen eye on the future. Turns out, the Flyers' fort had to be held down much firmer than the shaky stakes currently in the blue paint.

This season marks the biggest win-now moment in the era under Hextall and Dave Hakstol. The Flyers went out and landed James van Riemsdyk for five years, $35 million. The core, a big chunk of it coming off career seasons, is getting a year older, while the Flyers' youth movement has climbed another peg on the ladder.

During the offseason, though, the Flyers stood pat in net and they're now trying to survive the backfire at the mid-November mark.

Was this a risk they could afford? We'll find out.

But banking on Elliott and Neuvirth looked a heck of a lot more risky than it did safe.

Elliott underwent core muscle surgery in February and had a summer comprised of recovery and a cleanup procedure. He played 43 games in 2017-18 and, as a tandem goalie for most of his career, has played more than 50 games just once, back in 2009-10.

The oft-injured Neuvirth had offseason surgery on his hips after playing just 22 games last season and 28 the year prior. This year, Neuvirth suffered an injury during the preseason, has played one regular-season game and currently isn't practicing with the team.

The situation appears dire.

Even with Elliott out only two weeks approximately after sustaining a lower-body injury Thursday, who's to believe he won't get hurt again? He's 33 years old and was injured trying to go post to post, oftentimes a routine maneuver in net.

So what now?

Calvin Pickard is the guy. He's a goalie from outside the organization but not exactly a savior given he spent almost all of last season in the AHL.

Alex Lyon is the backup. He's played four AHL games this season and has 11 career games of NHL experience under his belt.

This is all part of the Flyers' internal approach — trusting who's next in line. Maybe Lyon or another prospect quickly rewards them.

The Flyers believe in the overall approach. They like their goalie prospects and are willing to be patient, but did the Flyers have enough time to be patient?

Or even the bodies?

Again, this is just 19 games into a season that should mean something.

The Flyers may have to act.

Because Hextall's build-from-within mindset is breaking down in net.

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Flyers' goalie situation once again in state of flux

Flyers' goalie situation once again in state of flux

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ron Hextall rolled into this season on a couple of bald tires. 

The Flyers general manager was pushing for one more season on worn down treads, but it was inevitable at some point that the Flyers would experience a goaltending blowout, and on Friday, the GM was forced to pull off onto the side of the road to make the necessary changes. 

"There's always risk," Hextall said, "Obviously, [Michal Neuvirth's] history says he's a high risk. Brian [Elliott's] doesn't. Obviously, he's not a young guy but he had an injury last year and got it fixed. Those are hard things to predict."

But like snowfall during January, the goaltending situation was one of those rather predictable occurrences where it wasn't a matter of if it happened, but when.

The news Friday is that Elliott's lower-body injury will force him to miss the next two weeks, and possibly longer if there's the slightest setback. Surprisingly, given how quickly Elliott came off the ice and how he proceeded to yell a certain four-letter expletive walking down the tunnel, the prognosis seemed rather encouraging.

"It was worse than what I had expected, but that's the way it is," said Hextall.

Or maybe that's just the way it was bound to play out. 

Last season, Elliott was rushed back into action sooner than expected and attempted to good-soldier his way through the first round of the playoffs. The end result was a disaster and even if Elliott couldn't sustain further damage by playing, he needed the necessary time to properly rehab and recover.

Neuvy took to the ice on his own on Thursday, but Hextall called it a "gradual increase" and offered no timetable on his return. When the Flyers host the Tampa Bay Lightning, the top team in the Eastern Conference, Saturday afternoon, it will mark the first time that neither Elliott nor Neuvirth will be in uniform. It took all of 20 games for the inevitable to happen.

Call it a tire rotation as Cal Pickard and Alex Lyon are now at the forefront.

While you feel they're capable goaltenders who can keep the machine moving forward, they're certainly not the high-performance wheels of an Elliott, who had allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last nine appearances. In some regards, Elliott's more than just a set of tires, he's the machine under the hood. The Flyers' recent success has been a product of his solid play in net. 

Now, it's Pickard's job for the immediate future. The last time he had a consistent workload came two years ago when he led the league in losses on a really bad Colorado Avalanche team.

"We need guys to step up and I know 'Picks' has been putting in the work when he's been out and I know he's ready to go," Scott Laughton said.

The Flyers can only hope that Pickard and Lyon will provide the necessary stability, but that's all you can ask for right now. 

Goaltending with this franchise feels like the wheels could fall off at any time.

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