The Philadelphia Flyers seem to have a goaltending problem again.
A position that was a constant problem in Philadelphia for years, the Flyers finally seemed to stumble onto something when Steve Mason arrived a couple of years ago and watched his career do a complete 180 from where it was during his time in Columbus. He immediately went from one of the worst performing goaltenders in the league to one that had consistently given the Flyers above average play for the better part of three seasons.
Along with Michal Neuvirth, he helped give the Flyers a pretty capable goaltending duo that seemed like it could at least solidify the position in the short-term at a cheap price against the salary cap.
So far this season, things have not gone exactly as planned in the Philadelphia net.
Both goaltenders have struggled over the first month of the season and enter play on Friday night with save percentages below .890 and have been among the worst performing players in the league at the position. That performance is helping to hold down a team that has been one of the top scoring teams in the league, is a top possession team, and is allowing the fourth fewest shots on goal per game.
Even if you want to argue that the Flyers defense — a unit that contains a couple of younger players still getting their feet wet in the NHL — has its flaws and can sometimes leave its goaltenders exposed, it hasn’t been so bad that the team should be 27th in the league in goals against at this point.
Again, this is a team that is one of the best in the league when it comes to limiting the number of shots their goalies have to face. Sure, there might be some prime scoring chances against, but that is something every goalie has to deal with in every system.
A lot of at this point simply comes down to the performance of goalies.
On Friday night in Toronto the Flyers are expected to turn back to Mason who will be making just his third appearance since Oct. 27.
They could really use a big performance against a young Toronto team that has quite a bit of skill up front.
The Maple Leafs will counter with Frederik Andersen, a goaltender that has had his own struggles this season.
— It is a battle of backups in Buffalo when Cory Schneider gets a rare night off for the Devils. Keith Kinkaid will be in the crease for the third time this season and is going up against Sabres backup Anders Nilsson.
— Corey Crawford looks to continue his white hot play when he takes the crease for the Chicago Blackhawks against reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals. Crawford has won six consecutive starts for the Blackhawks while allowing just six goals during that streak. He has a .939 save percentage on the season.
— No official word from the Dallas Stars yet, but after Kari Lehtonen got the call on Thursday night you should probably expect Antti Niemi in the crease on Friday against Edmonton. The Oilers will go with Cam Talbot who will be making his 14th start in 15 games for the Oilers.
— Semyon Varlamov will look to break out of his early season slump when he goes for the Colorado Avalanche against the Winnipeg Jets. Varlamov is off to a miserable this season with an .888 save percentage. He has lost five consecutive starts and allowed at least four goals in four of those starts. Overall he has surrendered at least four goals in five of his eight starts this season. The Jets have not yet announced who will start for them, but it could be Michael Hutchinson after Connor Hellebuyck started on Thursday.