PHILADELPHIA – Don’t look now, but the Flyers’ playoff hopes might rest on the shoulders of a rookie goaltender with parts of just seven NHL games under his belt.
After veteran netminder Petr Mrazek surrendered four goals on just 10 shots Thursday night, coach Dave Hakstol pulled the plug and decided to go with freshman Alex Lyon.
The Yale University product entered the game at 3:23 of the second period and stopped all 18 shots he faced in the Flyers’ eventual 5-3 loss at the Wells Fargo Center.
Lyon, who began the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and was most recently called up due to injuries to regulars Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, could get the start Saturday in Carolina and possibly even Sunday at home against Washington.
It’s not like Mrazek has been that bad. He just hasn’t been able to come up with that “big save’’ when needed.
Lyon, 2-2 so far in NHL play, has been brilliant at times, including a recent 3-2 loss at Boston in which he held the Flyers in it until a tiebreaking goal with 22 seconds to play.
Hakstol never divulges his starting goalie until game day but he did leave the door a bit ajar for Lyon.
To his credit, Lyon is trying to remain even-keeled. He showed his composure with this latest relief assignment.
“I mean it’s exciting for me to come in and play well, but at the same time, I think everybody’s objective right now has to be how can the Flyers secure a spot in the playoffs?’’ he said.
“I don’t want to excuse myself from that because I haven’t been here very long, I just want to embrace that mentality. It’s infectious, it really is, so just trying to kind of take that approach.’’
Hakstol hasn’t lost faith with Mrazek, but it’s almost a given when Elliott returns, he’s going to get the majority of the starts down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Lyon remains a strong possibility for the time being.
“We do trust him and he did a really good job coming in tonight in relief and gave us a chance to get back to even in this game,’’ Hakstol said.
“It’s too early to make that kind of decision (as to whether Lyon will get more playing time). Tonight, he goes in and if he gives one up, it’s game over. Alex has done a good job for us a couple times. He gave us some timely saves, he gave us an opportunity.’’
With the loss, Mrazek falls to 4-5-1 with a 3.15 goals-against average and .887 save percentage.
“It’s always disappointing when you’re in the net and you feel great and pucks are coming at you and some rebounds there,’’ he said. “When everything is going in, you just have to shake it off. Get ready for the next one.’’
However it all shakes out, the Flyers need some solid goaltending and they need it fast. They still control their playoff destiny but that status could be changing quickly.