Can Flyers Goaltenders Recreate Team’s Surprising 2010 Stanley Cup Push?
Last night, as we discussed yesterday, the Flyers had a chance to move into playoff position with a win over Chicago. The Blackhawks, though, are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference — just three points behind the conference leader.
It didn’t matter. Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves on 26 shots and a third-period Radko Gudas goal, just his third of the season, gave the Flyers a 3-2 win. If the season ended now — and that would be really weird, because there are still have 13 games left — the Flyers would be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.
Many Flyers fans, relentlessly upbeat as far as Philly sports fans go, are starting to get excited. Some are even comparing the team’s recent form to that of 2010. That year, the Flyers made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and went all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final before being eliminated.
That seems… overly optimistic, but there is a reason to think this is like 2010 in one way: The Flyers’ goalies are playing great. Neuvirth, who last month made the save of the year in the closing seconds, is 17-8-4 (the third column is overtime losses) with a 2.28 goals against average. The Flyers’ actual starter, Steve Mason, is 17-15-8 with a 2.61 GAA. But Mason has been even better since the All-Star Break, going 7-3-2 with a 2.35 GAA (Neuvirth has been slightly worse in the second half than he began the season). Their numbers at even strength (i.e., not shorthanded) are even better.
#Flyers goalies even strength…
Steve Mason: 42 GP, 93.69 SV%, 1.95 GAA/60
Michal Neuvirth: 31 GP, 93.31 SV%, 1.95 GAA/60
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) March 17, 2016
A hot goalie can help a team make a playoff run. During the 2010 season, the Flyers actually used two goalies, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Boucher went 6-6 with a 2.47 GAA, while Leighton went 8-3 with a 2.46 GAA and three shutouts. Leighton has started in just 50 career NHL games and holds the minor-league AHL record for shutouts.
You see? Even a career minor-leaguer can help your team get within two games of the Stanley Cup. And this year the Flyers have a pair of decent goalies who are playing really well right now. Plus, in the playoffs there are no shootouts — which the Flyers never win.
Plus, Claude Giroux is getting in the mood by watching Invincible.
— Claude Giroux (@28CGiroux) March 17, 2016
In conclusion: Maybe you should start to get excited about the Flyers’ chances in the playoffs. It’s unlikely anything happens, but what other pro sports team in Philly are you going to get psyched about now?
Then again, maybe they’ll miss the playoffs and you’ll have gotten your hopes up for nothing. After all, it is a Philly sports team.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.