The Flyers are in the midst of a near week-long break after starting the season 2-1-1. A lot can be taken from the Flyers play in those four games, and in some cases, they may have posed more questions than answers. At this point it seems like no one’s spot on the roster is safe. Here is a closer look at some of the decisions that will need to be made.
Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason
It’s only been two games that he’s started, but he has yet to let in a single goal. The first game he started was the Flyers home opener. This was facing a Panthers team that had demolished the Flyers while scoring seven goals just a few nights earlier. Neuvirth faced 31 shots and stopped them all, making some pretty flashy saves in the process.
Just two nights later, the Stanley Cup Champion, Chicago Blackhawks stepped into the Wells Fargo Center. Despite having a high-powered offense, they failed to crack Neuvirth as well, as he stood tall, stopping all 30 shots fired his way. Make no mistake about it, he gave the Flyers a golden opportunity to win this game, and they did.
So now where are we? Steve Mason is looking to return from a personal matter, however, during Mason’s time off, Neuvirth performed as a star.
Going into this season it seemed as if Mason would be the clear-cut starter, and despite Neuvirth’s great play, it should stay that way.
Mason has been bad throughout his career in the month of October, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to take away the starting job. He played very well in the season opener against Tampa Bay, and despite playing below average, had no help in front of him the whole game, and admitted later on that his ‘personal matter’ was bugging him throughout that game.
Mason has proven that he is the Flyers’ go to guy and has shown that he can push through adversity, there’s no reason for the Flyers to mess with his confidence now, Mason should start on Tuesday against Dallas, and remain the starter.
Sam Gagner and the Forwards
To say that Sam Gagner might be the final nail in the coffin for Vincent Lecavalier’s playing time is an understatement.
Gagner has looked very impressive in his first two games as a Flyer, and seems to meshing very well along side Brayden Schenn, something that the Flyers really need.
That was Gagner’s first goal as a Flyer, and surprisingly it was a powerplay goal. Powerplay goals from the Flyers second unit were few and far between last season, this season, they already have two of the four goals the Flyers have scored on the powerplay, and they’ve looked even better since Gagner has joined them.
This brings up a tough situation for Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. Gagner is filling in for the injured R.J. Umberger, who already had
recorded two points in the season opener against Tampa Bay. It also doesn’t look like Matt Read will be going anywhere, he’s looked like a new man this season and has two goals in two games. Not to mention, he, along with R.J. Umberger, were by far the Flyers best line against the Lightning a few nights ago.
Then there’s Lecavalier, who has yet to see the ice. With the way things seem to be going, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be seeing the ice anytime soon, the guys in front of him are playing too well.
This is a good problem for the Flyers to have, and unlike the goalies, this is a situation where the Flyers can just ride the hot hands, and at this rate, it looks like Sam Gagner may have himself a permanent roster spot.
Aside from one game in Florida, the Flyers have looked very good this season against some very good teams. The head coach will have some important decisions to make, but it’s a good dilemma to have.
Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.