Philadelphia Flyers' failures in goal continue
November 24, 2018 8:55 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Over the first quarter-century of Philadelphia Flyers hockey, the team was blessed with a pair of standout goaltenders in Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall.
Parent captured two Stanley Cups and a pair of Vezina Trophies in his Hall of Fame career. Hextall came within one game of a Cup before falling in Game 7 in Edmonton in 1986-87, yet still took home a deserving Vezina that season.
Both played more than 500 games and gained 300-plus victories including the playoffs with the Winged "P."
The second 25+ years of Flyers hockey has, unfortunately, not been kind in the net.
Except for 2010, when many still wonder how the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in the East semifinals to the Flyers tandem of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher (after the late Ray Emery was injured), Philadelphia fell just an overtime period away from forcing a seventh game with Chicago in the Cup Final. Otherwise, goaltending has basically struggled.
Ever since Pelle Lindbergh killed himself in a single-vehicle, drunken driving crash – the brick wall won – in 1986, it's been one poor decision after another by Flyers management on which goalies to keep.
Dealt away or released were Emery (twice), Sergei Bobrofsky (a Vezina winner in Columbus), and even aging yet not over-the-hill veterans like Sean Burke, John Vanbiesbrouck and Don McLeod.
Meanwhile, Leighton spent parts of three seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL) in the Flyers minors, never getting another chance with the big club following his Cup run. And Ilya "Duck" Bryzgalow and his $50M contract was a gigantic bust,
Indeed, no one has truly worked.
This season, Brian Elliot mans the net in his typically ordinary, barely-average performance level. Sure he has more than 230 NHL wins, yet he's played for five clubs and has never carried any franchise deep into the playoffs. He usually shares net duty and only twice played more than 50 games in a given year and that was early in his career with Ottawa.
Throw in reserve goalies Cal Pickard and Michael Neuwirth, Flyers goalies rank right at the bottom of the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.
The burning question: what can Philadelphia do while they (barely) remain in playoff contention in a sub-par season for almost every Metropolitan Division club? Elliot would be an excellent Mo. 2 goalie, top-flight prospect Carter Hart isn't ready, and there are injuries to others in the system, including woes to Elliot and Neuwirth.
What can be done by Hextall, now the general manager, to find a true solution in goal? The quickest path is to make a trade, but who could be available and at what price?
Nashville recently re-signed Pekka Renne for two more years, meaning Predators reserve Jusse Suros, who played great when Renne was hurt during the playoffs last spring, may want out of Tennessee.
Or could pending free agent Bobrofsky be brought back under the Flyers umbrella, although he's clearly stated he wants to be the NHL's highest paid goalie by next September, whether in or out of Ohio for the first-place Blue Jackets.
Last place St. Louis has two goalies in Jake Allen and Chad Johnson, San Jose backup Aaron Dell just posted his second straight shutout but can't find more time sitting behind Martin Jones, while Vegas and Los Angeles have combined to use nine players in goal due to injuries over the past two seasons, so someone might become available.