Kram and der Eishockeyzuschauer examine the goaltenders and their role in the Phantoms record this season in this Point/Counterpoint.
By now you know the numbers:
But there’s more to it. Let’s dig a little deeper. Here are the points to consider:
The veteran Jason LaBarbera, 35, was brought to the Flyers organization to serve as the third goalie behind Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth in Philadelphia. He has the NHL experience to be able to step into the NHL net if needed. And if he is called up, he’ll likely sit on the bench while the uninjured of Mason/Neuvirth play every night. LaBarbera’s not playing well right now; the numbers tell us this. But goaltenders tend to be streaky and the only way for him to play better is for him to keep playing. This is why he needs to play for the Phantoms as much or more than Stolarz.
If LaBarbera cannot stop the puck at the AHL level, then he certainly will not have an easier time stopping the puck in the crack NHL where the players are even more dangerous than those found down on the farm. If the Philadelphia Flyers suddenly found themselves in a situation tomorrow where their top two goaltenders were both injured and could not play, then they would have an obligation to start the player who, at present, has the best chance of stopping the puck. Right now, the only one of their two AHL netminders who has been stopping the puck with any consistency is Stolarz. In other words, the Flyers’ best option would be to recall the less experienced Stolarz because he is the one who has shown he is “in form” at the moment.
But both goaltenders would not be injured at the same time, most likely. The goalie chosen to be called up would sit the bench most of the time. Stolarz is still developing and needs to play, too. LaBarbera needs to play for us so that he can sit the bench (potentially) for the Flyers. Just like the IronPigs serve at the pleasure of the Phillies, the Phantoms will have to take lumps sometimes. Right now, that lump is Jason LaBarbera. Yanking Stolarz up and back from Philly every time Mason or Neuvirth get a boo boo–and have him sit on the bench, at that–will do nothing but turn him into Dom Brown.
If we are here for the development of players, then just exactly how is it that Anthony Stolarz, the 2nd round pick (# 45 overall) of the Flyers in 2012, has been splitting time this season with a 35-year-old guy who is obviously NOT in the long-range plans of the franchise, despite having clearly outplayed this same aging guy so far?
Look, LaBarbera didn’t just forget how to play goalie. He’s won a bunch of awards, been to the NHL and played a ton, and has the record for shutouts in the AHL. He’s not as bad as he’s looked. The guy is a talented hockey player–let’s just give this a little longer than 6 games. He needs to play through it.
Every athlete has a limited shelf life. How can we be certain that LaBarbera will EVER return to form? Perhaps there is a reason he was a free agent on the open market this summer. Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers just flat out made a mistake in signing a player who is just not all that they thought he could be. It’s not the first time in history that has ever happened to the Broad Street Bullies — *cough*Vinny Lecavalier*cough*.
With all of the injuries the Phantoms have suffered and the “new systems” being installed (including an incredibly bad penalty kill unit to start the season), perhaps LaBarbera’s just had the worst of it, and Stolarz the best. Barbie’s numbers are skewing bad and Stoli’s skewing good, but both would head towards the middle with more games played.
d.E.:The veteran Jason LaBarbera had the benefit of starting three of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms first four AHL games this season — in other words, “La Basura” actually got half his games in BEFORE the Phantoms started to suffer from their well-documented manpower shortages. He has also had the benefit of better goal-scoring support from his teammates: Lehigh Valley have scored three or more goals in four of LaBarbera’s six starts but, by comparison, the Phantoms have only managed to score more than three goals in three of Stolarz’s first six starts. For the most part, however, I believe it is fair to say that LaBarbera and Stolarz have both had to suffer with the same amount of “poor defensive play” in front of them and both have also had to cope with the same overall lack of goal-scoring support.
d.E.:Wait. I’m not done:There has really only been one common opponent that both LaBarbera and Stolarz have each had a chance to face so far and that, of course, would be the Syracuse Crunch — thus, it is relevant to note that LaBarbera conceded four goals and made just 22 saves (at home) while Stolarz let in just two goals while making 31 saves (on the road)..Perhaps the most telling statistics that do the most to plead the case for Anthony Stolarz come from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ penalty-killing record so far this season. When Stoli The Goalie has been between the pipes, the Phantoms have killed off 18 of 20 penalties (90.0%) but when LaBarbera has been the goaltender Lehigh Valley have survived only 17 of 28 penalties (60.7%). Remember, it has often been said that a team’s best penalty killer is its goaltender..Meanwhile, one thing is certain, and that is that of the 47 different goaltenders used by the AHL’s 30 different teams thus far, it is, in fact, Lehigh Valley’s supposedly experienced shot-stopper who has THE most abysmal save percentage out of every single netminder in the entire circuit :..855 svpct ….. 6 ga …… Jason LaBarbera, Lehigh Valley Phantoms.858 svpct ….. 4 ga …… Andrey Makarov, Rochester Americans.859 svpct ….. 6 ga …… Mike McKenna, Portland Pirates.865 svpct ….. 6 ga …… Matt O’Connor, Binghamton Senators.866 svpct ….. 4 ga …… Sam Brittain, Portland Pirates.887 svpct ….. 7 ga …… Zane McIntyre, Providence Bruins.889 svpct … 11 ga ……. Drew MacIntyre, Charlotte Checkers.891 svpct ….. 6 ga …… Don Tokarski, St. John’s IceCaps.892 svpct ….. 6 ga …… Dan Ellis, Hershey Bears.898 svpct ….. 5 ga …… Jordan Binnington, Chicago Wolves
d.E.I don’t want this to be all negative on “La Basura”–We should look at the positives of Stoli as well. The pro-player development push to secure more playing time for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ second-year netminder Anthony Stolarz continues unabated, it certainly is rather thought-provoking to review just how the Philadelphia Flyers organization acquired the 21-year-old New Jersey native in the first place– as well as where the young shot-stopper and his NHL Draft class constituents are now :.
2012 NHL Draft (goaltenders)1st rd – # 19 …. Tampa Bay …. Alexei Vasilevskiy1st rd – # 24 …. Boston ………. Malcolm Subban2nd rd – # 31 … Columbus …… Oskar Dansk2nd rd – # 45 … Philadelphia … Anthony Stolarz3rd rd – # 62 …. Columbus …… Joonas Korpisalo3rd rd – # 69 …. Carolina ……… Daniel Altshuller3rd rd – # 75 …. Calgary ………. Jon Gillies3rd rd – # 76 …. Ottawa ………. Chris Driedger3rd rd – # 80 …. Detroit ……….. Jake Paterson3rd rd – # 83 …. Pittsburgh …… Matt Murray.A lot of familiar names appear on this list of the top ten goaltenders selected at the annual National Hockey League Draft now almost but not quite three and a half years ago. We just saw the unheralded Driedger, who spent almost all of last season in the third-tier East Coast Hockey League, turn aside 31 shots in the Binghamton Senators’ decisive 4-1 triumph over at Hamilton Street Heroes at the PPL Center in Allentown. We are also very well aware of Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins netminder Matt Murray, not only last season’s Rookie of the Year in the American Hockey League but the AHL’s Best Goaltender last term, as well, and are cognizant that Murray is still very good (8 ga, 1.75 avg, .946 svpct)..The highly touted Vasilevskiy made 30 saves when the Syracuse Crunch dumped the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4-2 late last January and now earns a sizable salary ($ 925,000) in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning although the 21-year-old goaltender who has already won a gold medal at the annual IIHF World Championships (in 2014) with the senior national team of Russia did make two starts (1.00 avg, .966 svpct) in the AHL on a successful conditioning stint already this season..The equally promising Subban has struggled to find his form thus far after being sidelined through injury at the beginning of the new season but has already shown more than enough of his quality in his two previous AHL campaigns (68 ga, 2.38 avg, .921 svpct) for the Providence Bruins. The starting goaltender for medal-less Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships did not appear in either of the P-Bruins’ two games against the Phantoms last season or either of Providence’s first two engagements with Lehigh Valley this term, for that matter. However, it is all but assured that the Phantoms will be seeing the talented Subban for the very first time at some point when our Hamilton Street Heroes skate with the Boston Bruins’ farm club no fewer than three times in this very month of November..Dansk, who was the starting goaltender (and teammates with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defensemen Robert Hagg and Jesper Pettersson) for silver medalist Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships, had an unhappy time last season shuffling between the AHL’s Springfield Falcons (21 ga, 3.57 avg, .880 svpct) and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings (11 ga, 3.73 avg, .889 svpct) and surrendered five goals on just 23 shots in the Falcons’ overtime loss to the Phantoms last February. This past summer the 21-year-old was sent out on loan by his NHL employers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, to Swedish elite league club BK Rogle Angelholm for this entire European season. Dansk has done rather well back home and currently boasts the best save percentage (.923) and fifth-best goals against average (2.22) in the domestic top flight despite playing for a Rogle side which only stands ninth out of fourteen teams in the standings..Korpisalo has been stingy (1.65 avg, .942 svpct) in his first four AHL starts for the Lake Erie Monsters this season despite being forced to play 65 minutes of hockey in three of those four games; the 21-year-old got a little taste of AHL action last spring and made three appearances for the Springfield Falcons (3.20 avg, .878 svpct) after arriving from Finnish elite league outfit Ilves Tampere (38 ga, 2.34 avg, .919 svpct)..Gillies, who backstopped underdog Providence College to a surprising NCAA title last spring, has gotten his professional career off to a solid start with the Stockton Heat (7 ga, 2.31 avg, .920 svpct) of the AHL’s Western Conference. The native of New Hampshire was the backup goaltender (and teammates with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere) on the United States team which won the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships. Gillies was also the starting netminder (with Stolarz being the understudy) for the American team which failed to advance past the quarterfinal stage of the 2014 IIHF WJC..Altshuller and Paterson, both products of the Canadian junior system, have, at this point in time, not been able to advance themselves past the East Coast Hockey League..Perhaps the point of this exercise has not only been to clearly demonstrate that Stolarz is, indeed, a “high end” draft pick but also to highlight the fact that the performance of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ 2nd-year pro this season (6 ga, 1.86 avg, .925 svpct) has conclusively proven that he is ready to carry much more of the load this time around.