Flyers Stuck in Neutral

by Marc Narducci; Photo Marc Narducci | Nov 26, 2016
Flyers Stuck in Neutral There is an old saying that championships can't be won in the early months of the season but they can be lost then.

That is something to keep in mind when assessing the Flyers who began the week 8-8-3. The Flyers are at this point what their record is, but in the Eastern Conference they need to be so much better. Last season they made a late run and earned the No. 8 and final Eastern Conference seed.

This season the Eastern Conference appears to be deeper and that is why the Flyers can't afford to fall too much back at this point. As the week began the Flyers were only two points out of the final playoff spot, but they'd be in a much better position if they were able to close out some games better.

It's a team that has scored better than expected but has had too many defensive lapses. Both goalies have also been disappointing to date.

The Flyers began the week third in the NHL in goals with 60 but last in goals allowed with 65.

Improved goaltending is a must if the Flyers want to return to the postseason. Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are in their final years of their contacts. Both could become free agents at the end of the season.

Whether either will be with the Flyers after this year is a legitimate question.

Neuvirth suffered a lower body injury on Nov. 12 in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild and is expected to be out four to six weeks from that time.

That means the onus is on Mason, who has shown flashes since Neuvirth's injury.

The Flyers will finally get a chance to see goalie Anthony Stolarz under NHL fire. He has been recalled to replace Neuvirth and while Mason will get the bulk of the action, the 22-year-old Stolarz, who was an all-star for the AHL Phantoms last year, should see some time in goal.

Mason was spectacular playing the final two periods in place of Neuvirth in the win over the Wild, and he stood tall in goal during a 5-2 win over Ottawa.

He is a player who when he gets on a roll, as he did at the end of the regular season a year ago, can carry a team. Mason is also prone to slumps, none more pronounced than during last year's first-round playoff loss to Washington.

After surrendering 12 goals in three games, he was pulled for Neuvirth, who was brilliant in the postseason.

Neuvirth, however, wasn't able to build on that performance this year.

It is more than the goaltenders to blame for the Flyers mediocre start. The defense has been far from air-tight. In fact Shayne Gostisbehere, who has slumped after a sensational rookie year, was benched for a game last week by coach Dave Hakstol.

The second-year coach wanted the player they call "Ghost" to see the game from a different vantage point. After his one game off, Gostisbehere returned during a 3-0 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

So for the Flyers it is one step up and a 1.5 steps back during an inconsistent first quarter of the season.

Photo by Marc Narducci: Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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