The Philadelphia Flyers will look to rebound from a disappointing 2020-21 season when they open their 2021-22 regular season schedule against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 15. The team will begin training camp on Sept. 23, begin to turn the page on the new season and establish continuity with the new players that were added during the offseason. The Flyers struggled at the goaltending position last season — starter Carter Hart, and former backups Brian Elliott and Alex Lyon did not play well enough as the team hobbled to a sixth-place finish in the East Division.
Expectations are typically high among the Flyers fanbase and this season will be no different as the team returns to playing in the competitive Metropolitan Division. The goaltending needs to be the backbone if the team hopes to be playing playoff hockey in the 2021-22 season. The organization signed former San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones during the summer to backup Hart this season.
Starter: Carter Hart
Hart returns as the top goaltender for the 2021-22 season and will look to put an underwhelming season behind him by playing like the franchise player at the position that the organization envisions he can be. He is the last line of defense as the goalie and needs consistent play from the forwards and defensive players in order to be more effective, but he was unproductive as a whole last season. During a game against the Boston Bruins, he expressed his frustration with his play by breaking his stick against the crossbar and struggled to regain his confidence mentally.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher signed the 23-year-old goaltender to a three-year extension in August, reaffirming Hart’s role as the starting goaltender despite his tumultuous play last season. He had a much better season during 2019-20 as the team played better in front of him, but he looked like a goaltender that could be the Flyers’ starting netminder for several seasons. Last season, he did not display his premier goaltending abilities on a consistent basis and struggled for a majority of the year.
Before his season-ending MCL injury in April, he had a .910 save percentage in addition to a 2.31 goals-against average (GAA). The performances in April of last season are what the Flyers need from Hart on a consistent basis in 2021-22 in order to take the next steps toward be a Stanley Cup contending team in the NHL. He has an opportunity to redeem himself to the Flyers organization and fan base by playing much better this season.
Backup: Martin Jones
In order for the Flyers not to repeat a similar season with the most goals against (GA) in the NHL, the team is going to improved defensive play and better performances from the tandem of Hart and newcomer Jones. The Flyers new backup goaltender has struggled as a starter with the Sharks after leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final during the 2015-16 season. A change of scenery may benefit the goaltender who is entering his ninth season in the league.
Jones finished with a GAA of 3.00 and 3.28 in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, respectively. His experience as a starting goaltender will benefit the Flyers when he makes a start in net in order to give Hart a rest. The one-year contract he signed with the team in the offseason gives the Flyers flexibility to determine if he is a good fit after the upcoming season.
The Flyers have three prospects in Samuel Ersson, 21, Kirill Ustimenko, 22, and Felix Sandstrom, 24, who are all younger than Jones, 31, and one of them could become the future backup goaltender with a strong season. The organization is hoping both goaltenders on the roster each rebound from disappointing years and provide stability at the position in their respective roles. If Hart can have a successful season that is akin to his performance in 2019-20, along with suitable play from Jones and improved defensive play, the Flyers have a good chance to be in the playoff picture this season.
Matt covers the New York Rangers, contributes Rangers Weekly and Rangers Daily Download pieces and has previously contributed content including news and rumors articles about the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. To see more of Matt’s writing, visit his portfolio. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter that appears at the end of his articles.