For the last ten... no twenty... thirty years?
Let’s try that again.
For the last eternity it seems like the Flyers have not had a goalie work their way through their farm system and become a starter at the NHL level. Few have tried, none have succeeded. When Ron Hextall was promoted to his current position of general manager his job was, to put it simply, to ‘fix this stuff’ and he’s trying to do just that.
Over the last three years, Hextall has brought in a total of seven goaltenders into the Flyers’ prospect pool. Six of them through the draft, one signed as an undrafted free agent.
Alex Lyon was signed out of Yale on April 5, 2016. He’s spent the better part of the last two seasons in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. During that time Lyon has shown that he has the potential to make some impact at the NHL level, even though his ceiling may only a backup goaltender.
The Flyers were decimated by injuries in their crease this season with Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz all having long term injuries at some point in the season. This gave Alex Lyon the opportunity to show Philadelphia what he was about.
By The Numbers
After spending the majority of the season in the AHL with the Phantoms, an injury to Brian Elliott gave Lyon an opportunity when he was called up in late January. Lyon made his NHL debut on January 31st in a game against the Washington Capitals. He entered the game midway through the third period, in relief of Michal Neuvirth who was pulled after allowing his fifth goal. His debut wasn’t anything to call home about, but he did make five saves during 8:02 on ice.
The next night the Flyers would travel up I-95 from D.C. to Newark to face the Devils. It would be Alex Lyon’s first start in the NHL. The Devils struck early in the game, with Kyle Palmieri scoring on the powerplay. The teams would trade goals until a Shayne Gostisbehere goal late in the second period would put the Flyers up by one. The Devils would strike back halfway through the third to tie the game at three. And then, well, Lyon had his ‘welcome to the NHL moment’ and let’s just say it probably wasn’t how he pictured it.
With only a smidge over 1:30 remaining in the third period the Devils charged up ice; Nico Hischier crashed the net attempting to deflect the oncoming shot. Blake Coleman took the shot, Hischier deflected it. And the puck trickled ever so slowly through Lyon’s pads. To be blunt, it was a puck that should have been stopped, but Lyon did not expect the curve ball. The Devils would hold on to their lead, and Alex Lyon’s NHL debut would result in his first loss. He allowed four goals on twenty two shots, putting his save percentage at a not-so-pretty .818.
Alex would get another opportunity just two nights later at home, in Philadelphia, against the Ottawa Senators. The game, well, it didn’t go too good for our Lyon friend. He allowed three goals goals on 23 shots, and was pulled after two periods. The Flyers would go on to lose that game in a shootout, because if there is anything that is guaranteed in this lifetime it’s the Philadelphia Flyers hockey club losing in a shootout.
Lyon would be sent back down the the Phantoms following his short stint with the Flyers.
And then, during a game against the New York Rangers, in Madison Square Garden, Lyon just appeared— quite literally out of nowhere. After Michal Neuvirth started the game and played the entire first period. Lyon went out to start the second period, except nobody was informed of this. Not the fans, not the commentators, and apparently not the PA guy because no formal announcement was made. But Alex Lyon made sure to make an announcement of his own, just to let everyone know who he was and what he was there to do. And he was there to stop pucks.
Lyon played out the remaining two periods, allowing one goal on twenty six shots, as the Flyers cruised to a 7-4 win.
Things would look up for Lyon’s next game. He would get his second career start just two days later, which would also be his first win in the NHL. He allowed two goals, and posted a SV% of .926. His following start would be repeat of that Devils game, allowing a late goal in Boston. With just 24 seconds left, he let another puck creep through is his pads, allowing Zdeno Chara to score and give the Bruins the lead. Lesson learned... again?
Lyon’s next three games would be his best stretch of the season at the NHL level, he would have a record of 2-0-1 across them, and he posted a SV% of .918 between the three games. He saw his last NHL action on March 25th, when he came in to relieve Petr Mrazek in a game against Pittsburgh. He allowed three goals on eleven shots, the Flyers went on to lose and let it be known that on that night sports were bad.
It was an up and down season at the NHL level for Lyon this year, but he was pretty damn solid when playing with the Phantoms. In 27 games played in Lehigh Valley he put up a GAA of 2.75 and a SV% of .913. Not numbers to call home about, but very solid nonetheless.
Lyon’s performance in the AHL’s playoffs was another story; he was near lights-out. The Phantoms rolled through the first two rounds, before running into the AHL powerhouse Toronto Marlies. In 11 playoff games Lyon posted an astonishing SV% of .944 and a GAA of 1.98. He also went on to have his name written into the history books. Lyon stopped 94 of 95 shots in the longest AHL game ever played.
Seriously just look at this stat line.
Three Burning Questions
Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?
Yes, this was the season that Lyon needed to show that he could have an impact down the road at the NHL. While Lyon didn’t post spectacular numbers, he did a lot of small things correctly, which showed that potential we were looking for. The Flyers needed to see that Lyon was capable of doing something, anything at the NHL level or else it would have not made sense to bring him back. He was able to show them that, which met our expectations and the team’s— he was rewarded with a two year contract extension with the second year being a one-way deal. Which could mean the Flyers do have plans for Lyon to be a part of the team, at least in the short term.
What do we expect from this player next season?
Lyon will be sharing a crowded crease in the AHL next season, with Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz also on the books for the upcoming year. It’ll be a rough road to make himself standout but the possibility is surely there. When the inevitable injury happens to Neuvirth, look for Lyon to be the guy called up— unless Carter Hart is playing absolutely out of his mind, which well, is also something to take into account. While Lyon does have some potential, it’s also important to note that he isn’t that young. Well okay, at least not in hockey player years; he’ll be 26 at the end of next season. As for what we should expect from Lyon next year, we should hope he can show that he is a capable back-up at the NHL level. We should expect him to make the most of his call-ups and we should expect him to show the Flyers that it’s worth holding onto him in a crowded pool of goalie prospects.
What would we like to see this player improve on?
The number one thing that bothered me about Lyon last year was he just look so awkward in net. More so when he was first called up, but he just didn’t look comfortable in net when he played in the NHL. Now, when he was with the Phantoms it was another story, he was much calmer in net and had more composure. This upcoming season Lyon should try to just be more comfortable in net. It’s certainly an adjustment that needs to be made, but it also is something that can be fixed.