In Philadelphia, “The Answer” typically has a basketball connotation to it, as it refers to Allen Iverson. However, fans were searching for a different kind of answer following the Flyers first round exit in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. The answer that Flyers fans were looking for is the answer to their seemingly never-ending quest for a star goaltender between the pipes.
Last time the team had a star goaltender they could build around was in the mid to late 1980’s up through the mid to late 1990’s when current general manager Ron Hextall was between the pipes. Seriously, the list of goaltenders since Hextall’s retirement reads like a who’s who list that rivals the list of starting quarterbacks for the Cleveland Browns since 1999.
Back to the Flyers though. These days, Hextall is overseeing the Flyers as GM and in the process overseeing the development of two goaltenders that could very well be the answer to the Flyers’ goaltending prayers. One has already seen NHL action and the other is not far off from it.
Carter Hart has been getting a ton of praise, and rightfully so, for his play at the junior level. However, before he gets to the NHL, there will be another goaltender there before him. That goaltender is Alex Lyon.
The 25-year-old Lyon, who is currently with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, played in 11 games for the Flyers in 2017-18 in large part due to injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. At any rate, Lyon finished with a record of 4-2-1 with a Goals Against Average of 2.75 and a save percentage of .905. Aside from the numbers, there were also many glimpses of something special from Lyon before he was sent back down to the Phantoms when Peter Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, and later Brian Elliott returned.
Lyon really made his case this spring. While the Flyers stumbled to another first round exit, Lyon backstopped the Lehigh Valley Phantoms through the opening two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Lyon and Dustin Tokarski helped lead the Phantoms to the second-best record in the AHL. Lyon also made history in the Calder Cup Playoffs when the Phantoms defeated the Charlotte Checkers 2-1 in 5 overtimes. Lyon finished with a record 94 saves on 95 shots. It’s only a matter of time, maybe even sometime in the 2018-19 season that he will find his way back up to the Flyers and stay there.
Meanwhile, the talk of Flyers fans everywhere for the last couple years has been Carter Hart. As much as every Flyers fan would love to see Hart with the Flyers now, Ron Hextall made it clear the day he was hired as GM that he is a firm believer of building from within and is not about rushing players into the NHL. A second-round pick by the Flyers in 2016, Hart has been slowly brewing in the Junior Hockey scene and completed his fifth season with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.
In 190 career games with the Silvertips, Hart has a record of 116-46-19 with 26 shutouts along with a goals against average of 2.01 and a save percentage of .927. He has also backstopped Canada to Junior silver in 2017 and gold in 2018 in the World Junior Championships. Along the way, Hart has been setting all kinds of records and taking home all kinds of awards. Hart was named Canadian Hockey League (which combines the WHL with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) Goaltender of the Year in 2016 after being named WHL Goalie of the Year in 2016. He was also named both Goalie of the Year and Player of the year at the end of the 2017-18 season.
It will still be a few years before we see Carter Hart in the NHL, but it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see him with the Phantoms next season. At 19, he is still young with many years left, but the talent he brings to the ice is something that doesn’t come around often. And when that talent does come around, their team has hit the jackpot.
Bottom line is, the NHL better watch out for the Flyers in the next few years. It’s been a long time coming for Flyers fans, but it seems as though they finally have the answer to their goaltending prayers. Unfortunately, it will be a few more years before it all comes to fruition, but if Carter Hart’s highlights (which can be found on YouTube for those who want to see them) are any indication, it will be well worth the wait.