Phantoms Goalie Roundabout Takes Another Turn

“Round and round
With [Hart] we’ll find a way just give it time
Round and round
What comes around goes around
I’ll tell you why:”

-Ratt, Songwriters: Michael Bruce, Reggi Vinson, Alice Cooper

Carter Hart Photo: Jack Mitroka

“All My Goalies”

Last night in Philadelphia, lead netminder Brian Elliott went down with an injury which we’re now told will be in the two-week range.  Frangible veteran goalie Michal Neuvirth remains unavailable, but has been skating lately.  Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon has been summoned from Providence.

“As The Goalies Turn” 

I guess this is why you keep six goalies at the top two levels, eh?  It was no secret that Elliott and Neuvirth were coming off post-season surgeries for the Flyers, and Anthony Stolarz for the Phantoms, as well.  Yale product Alex Lyon (NHL: 11GP, 2.75GAA, .905Sv) was injured during preseason, prompting the Flyers to grab Cal Pickard (87 NHL Games) from Toronto via waivers.  Along with top (overall) prospect Carter Hart, that gives you the six.  As they gained degrees of health, both the Flyers and Phantoms have had three healthy goalies on the roster for certain (small) stretches.  Inevitably, the injury bug strikes, and now we’re set with Pickard/Lyon with the Flyers and Hart/Stolarz with the Phantoms.

“The Goalies And The Restless”

Even this morning, cries from the Flyers fans call for the promotion of the highly-regarded Carter Hart.  He’s coming off perhaps his best game.  Beyond the 37/35 numbers and the 3-2 OT win on Wednesday, he was in command of his crease, covered shots better than I’d seen him in the past, and did better deflecting to the corners.  Certainly there were a few pucks left out front, and one adventure skating around behind the net.  There was also the post-game quote which went something like, “I kind of fell asleep there on the second goal.”  There’s still work to be done.  Consistency to prove.  “Falling asleep” to stop.  Physical demands to overcome.  Mental and physical grind to endure.  It’s just not time.  He’s good enough to dominate.  That doesn’t mean he ever will–I don’t know–but he needs to be given the opportunity to reach that level and earn a graduation if he’s to be counted on as anything resembling the “savior” the Flyers fans want (need?) him to be.

“Goalies Of Our Lives”

The calls this morning for the Flyers to sign a more dependable veteran goalie are warranted.  I agree that they need to move on from the Elliott/Neuvirth “Circle of Hurt.”  Then it’s down to how soon Carter Hart is really ready.  But even if that’s as soon as later this season (an optimistic projection at this juncture, to be sure) they should probably have a dependable veteran net presence at his side.  Could that be Pickard or Lyon?  Part of me thinks that it could be.  In any case, in my opinion those two need to share the starts until Elliott and and Neuvy are 100% healthy.  The Flyers need to see what they have in them–guys who can act as the veteran netminder, or AHL/NHL fodder.  Then perhaps move on to a “quality over quantity” approach, however that is.

From a volume standpoint, there are additional puck tamers in the pipeline, too.  These players may be getting professional opportunities with the Phantoms in the coming years.  Consider:

  1. Felix Sandström  The 21-year-old Swedish goalie will be 22 when next season starts, and almost certainly ready for a stint with the Phantoms as a stepping stone to the NHL.  He’s currently with HV71 Jonkoping in the SHL:  8 GP/ 2.59 GAA / .894 Pct.
  2. Matej Tomek  He’s the same age as Sandstrom and currently with the University of Nebraska.  He’s only appeared in three games and has some rather pedestrian numbers right now.  However, the big Slovak has done well in the past and could also find his way to the AHL if he turns pro.
  3. Kirill Ustimenko  The Belarusian will be 20 next season.  The reports I’m reading are very promising, and it remains to be seen when he’ll be ready to move stateside.  His numbers in the MHL thus far this season:  21 GP/ 1.90 GAA / .919 and he could very well be in the mix for a spot with the Russian Juniors team.
  4. Ivan Fedotov  He’ll turn 22 soon and has been putting up some very respectable number in the VHL.  He’s a giant at 6’7″.


Photo: Jack Mitroka

“Guiding Goalies”

I’m here for the Phantoms, though, so my parting thought has to do with our own situation here in the Lehigh Valley.  We’ve got our two guys in Hart and Anthony Stolarz.  We’ll have to watch to see how they’re used.

Certainly, Carter Hart will continue to be the primary guy in order for him to get the playing time he needs for development.  Even with three goalies, it has always been kind of his net first here in this young season.

And remember, this season will always be about him–good, bad or indifferent, there’s no way around it.  But this Phantoms team, organization and fans, have certain expectations at this epoch:  Expectations about performance and victories and playoffs.  Whomever is in goal will receive the microscope in that regard, with Carter’s being a little brighter spot light based on his pedigree.

But will he be just the primary to Stolie’s secondary?  Or will he take over as the full-time number one with Stolie as a 3/3 Sunday goalie?

Those questions begin to get answered tonight.  With two games this weekend in New England, we’ll get to see a glimpse, perhaps.  Tonight in Providence, I would expect Hart as the lead guy despite his start Wednesday.  If tonight was pre-planned as a Lyon night, with Carter focused on tomorrow in Springfield, then perhaps we’ll see Stolie tonight.  If Hart goes tonight and again tomorrow, then we’ll know for certain that He’s going to be the “every night” guy.  Depending on what’s going on with Stolarz, you could see Hart start two this weekend and the two home games next weekend as well, with Stolarz waiting until one of the Canadian games as we turn the calendar to December.  There’s also the chance that Neuvy declares himself “healthy” and that Alex Lyon comes back into the fold.

“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the goalies of our lives.”


See you at the arena,



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

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