By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
With the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending tandem finally figured out going into the 2017-18 season, most people (including myself) aren’t too happy about a Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott duo. While both had miserable 2016-17 seasons, it’s easy to forget that both had down years, and are statistically much better than they let on.
Chances are Elliott will emerge as the starter once the season starts and the job will be his to lose. Saying that, this is going to be another season of tandem goaltending, so barring injuries they should start around 40 games each.
Both goalies career numbers are similar, though Elliott has played almost 150 more games. The former Calgary Flame rocks a career 2.42 goals-against-average and .913 save percentage, while Neuvirth sits at a 2.68 GAA and .911 SV%. The major issue is neither have ever entrenched themselves as the stand-alone starter.
Elliott has played more than 40 games five times in his decade-long career, only breaking the 50 game mark once in 2009-10. Neuvirth’s numbers are less impressive, and his games played aren’t any better. He has only hit the 30-start mark twice in nine years and broke the 40-game mark just once in 2010-11 with the Capitals. If general manager Ron Hextall is looking for a tandem duo, he found the right two goalies.
While the 2016-17 season was a dud for both, the 2015-16 season was a different story. Both Neuvirth and Elliott dominated when they played. Neuvirth played in 32 games ending the season with a 2.27 GAA and a .924 SV% while Elliott finished with a 2.07 GAA and .930 SV% in 42 games.
Now, an important factor in the goalies numbers it the team in front of them. Brian Elliott especially suffered last season playing behind the less-than-stellar Calgary defense, even more so because he played behind the dominant St. Louis Blues roster for the previous five years.
The positive side of a tandem rather than a flat-out number one, is there’s double the chance of at least one of them being successful. Looking back at recent years in Philly, except for the Steve Mason/Neuvirth duo, the Flyers have struggled in icing two capable goalies. So at least they still managed to keep two goalies who can handle multiple starts if necessary on the roster.
While the Flyers final roster is still taking shape, it’s already clear that this will be a better team than last season, even if it’s purely addition by subtraction. With the team around them improving, particularly the defense, it should help out the goalies even more.
The pair both have fresh starts heading into this season. Neuvirth has a chance to emerge from Masons shadow, while Elliott has a chance to put that miserable season in Calgary behind him.
It’s easy to look at the current goalie duo and not be thrilled, but truth is, the potential is there to dominate. If Neuvirth can rebound, and find that consistency that his career has been lacking the past three seasons, he can be a solid backup. Elliott still walked away from Calgary with a .910 save percentage, which isn’t terrible, but if he can re-find his .930 SV% form from St. Louis, he could be a nice replacement for Mason.
It’s safe to be cautiously optimistic about this season. An improved offense and defense, and a goaltending tandem capable of being stingy, the Flyers may find themselves in the playoff hunt again.
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