The Philadelphia Flyers are in the middle of a playoff race and have lost an integral part of its team in goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Neuvirth suffered a lower body injury and will be out for at least the next three weeks. The goalie was slated to start against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, but to everyone’s surprise Steve Mason led the team out for warmups and got the start. The Flyers lost the pivotal game 4-1 and dropped to three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia recalled Anthony Stolarz from its American Hockey League Affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to replace Neuvirth on the roster.
Neuvirth couldn’t have gotten hurt at a worse time with the Flyers having four back-to-back situations remaining in the final 12 games of the season. They play six games in the final nine days of the season and four games in the final five days. The last game of the season is a makeup game with the New York Islanders that was originally scheduled in January, but was postponed due to a snow storm that hit the East Coast.
In 31 games played this year, Neuvirth is 17-8-4 and has started 28 of those games. He has a 2.28 goal against average, which is 11th best in the NHL this year. His .925 save percentage is fifth best in the NHL, and he has been towards the top of the league all season in that category. He also has three shutouts on the season. Neuvrith and Mason have been splitting time in the crease of late because coach Dave Hakstol has been going with the hot goalie since the All-Star Break. In his last 10 games played, Neuvirth is 6-2-2 with a .905 save percentage and 24 goals allowed.
Neuvirth has been really good for Philadelphia this season when he has been healthy. He has had trouble staying healthy during the course of his career though. The goaltending position has probably been the most consistent facet of the game for the Flyers this year. The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason has been good and have stepped up when needed. They’ve made key saves when needed during games and is one of the main reasons that Philly is still in the playoff race.
Mason will likely get most of the starts down the stretch. He is 17-16-8 on the season with a 2.62 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. He hasn’t played poorly this season but the teams hasn’t been giving him a lot of goal support. This will be his time to show if he can be a true number one goalie in the NHL. Everyone will see what Mason is made of because the Flyers are in the middle of a playoff race with a backup who has zero NHL experience.
One would think that Stolarz would get a shot at starting at least a couple of the games because of the back-to-back situations for the Flyers. He was 19-5-7 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .916 save percentage while down with the Phantoms. He didn’t see any action during his previous call up earlier in the season. He could possibly start, if he stays up with the team, in Arizona, versus the Winnipeg Jets, at home against the Ottawa Senators or at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Those four teams are already out of the playoff race.
The team will really have to buckle down and play good defense in front of the goalies, who will have to keep the puck out of the net, if they want to remain in the playoff hunt.