Golden Opportunity In Net For Michal Neuvirth

PITTSBURGH, OH - FEBRUARY 25: Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers controls the puck during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field on February 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

With Brian Elliott injured for the second time in the last few weeks, Michal Neuvirth now has a golden opportunity in net. Not known as a starting goaltender, he will have to prove that he can be. The Philadelphia Flyers hold a two-point lead on the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. They look to Neuvirth to help them maintain it.

When Elliott went down against the Arizona Coyotes, Neuvirth was forced into action in the middle of a shootout. Elliott took a stick up high from Clayton Keller while simultaneously injuring his groin. This injury is similar to his previous injury.

Neuvirth helped the Flyers to a 4-3 shootout victory, stopping all five shooters he faced. Leaving the game with a win, Neuvirth would go down as the first goaltender in NHL history to win a game when entering during the shootout.

Elliott will be out about 5-6 weeks following surgery to repair a core muscle. The net will be Michal Neuvirth’s for now. He’ll need to show the Flyers that they don’t need outside goaltending help. Elliott won’t be returning until late March or early April.

Michal Neuvirth With A Golden Opportunity

Neuvirth had the tough task of facing the Vegas Golden Knights in his first start after Elliott went down. The Knights came into Sunday’s game with a 19-3-2 record on home ice amidst an impressive first season. Despite being outshot 39-18, the Flyers took home the 4-1 victory. Neuvirth was a big part of that win.

“When you come in on back-to-back nights and the other team is rested, your goaltender is going to need to be a centerpiece for you,” coach Dave Hakstol said, “and Neuvy for sure was that for us.”

Neuvirth stopped 38 out of 39 shots, rebounding from the previous start.  That game saw him give up five goals on 20 shots against the Washington Capitals. He was pulled from that game, giving way to Alex Lyon‘s NHL debut

When Elliott was previously sidelined, the Flyers were 0-3-1 while allowing 4.50 goals per game. Despite a small sample size, the Flyers cannot afford to let that happen again.

Looking at the numbers, Neuvirth’s 2.80 GAA and .915 SV% are slightly better than Elliott’s 2.72 GAA and .908 SV%. However, Neuvirth has appeared in 19 games while Elliott has played in 42 games. While Neuvirth looked decent in those 19 games, asking him to play well for 5-6 weeks could backfire on the team.

Neuvirth’s inability to stay healthy factors into the Flyers potential plans. He appeared in 32 games in his first season with Philadelphia and 28 games last season. Both seasons saw Neuvirth with stints on the injury list. This season has been no different. The last time Neuvirth played a starters role was in 2010-11 when he appeared in 48 games for the Capitals.

General Manager Ron Hextall Speaks

GM Ron Hextall spoke on Elliott’s injury, Neuvirth and Lyon during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He covered a variety of topics but spoke mostly regarding what the team is looking to do in Elliott’s absence.

“Hopefully Neuvy can take the assignment and do a good job for us,” Hextall said. “Alex Lyon has played very well for us lately in Lehigh Valley and obviously at some point, he’s probably going to have to give us some minutes. We believe in both guys and we’ll get through it.”

Hextall went on to say that in a perfect world he would like to see Lyon play before the deadline, but points were important to capture right now. After falling to the New Jersey Devils, the race in the Metropolitan division got even tighter.

He spoke briefly about the possibility of bringing in another goaltender. Quiet as usual, Hextall only mentioned that the team will look for a move if they feel it will make the team better. This is a mantra that Hextall has used time and time again. He spoke about his confidence in Neuvirth, saying they signed him because they believed in him.

Outside Help Could Be On The Way

The Flyers may look for outside help if Neuvirth falters or Lyon does not appear ready for the NHL. Even if the team does make a trade, one can expect Neuvirth to be the main man in the crease.

Neuvirth and Elliott both have one season left on their contracts. Given the chance that Carter Hart might blow everyone away next fall, the Flyers may want to leave a window open just in case.

A few names have been thrown out as possible trade candidates. The Flyers have most notably been linked to Chad Johnson and the Buffalo Sabres. Elliotte Friedman briefly mentioned it was possible that the two teams were talking.

Other goaltenders the Flyers could look at include Antti Raanta of the Arizona Coyotes, Antti Niemi of the Montreal Canadiens and Calvin Pickard of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There was thought that the Flyers would be able to recall Hart under emergency circumstances. He has been tearing it up in the WHL, in what will be his last junior season. That move, however, cannot be made.

Nonetheless, Michal Neuvirth will be between the pipes for the time being. Lyon will likely see a few games, but he hasn’t looked sharp in his previous appearances. With one season left on his contract, this is a big opportunity for Neuvirth. It’s likely that he won’t be a part of the Flyers future plans so this could be an audition of sorts for any potential suitors.

The Flyers just hope that Neuvirth’s audition goes well.

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