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Talbot to help Flyers make NHL history as eighth goalie used this season

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Exactly two weeks after the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Cam Talbot from the Edmonton Oilers, the 31-year-old netminder will finally debut for his new team.

Talbot was the odd-man out after the deal, sitting in the pressbox for his first three games as a Flyer. Since Carter Hart’s injury, he’s been backing up Brian Elliott. Friday night he’ll finally get a start and help make NHL history in the process.

When the puck drops against the New Jersey Devils with Talbot in net, the Flyers will become the first NHL team to use eight  goalies in one season. They had been stuck on seven since Mike McKenna‘s start in early January and tied with the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues and the 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.

Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon was one the seven who got a turn in goal for that Nordiques team.

Here’s a look at the games played for each of the eight goalies the Flyers have used this season:

Carter Hart – 22
Brian Elliott – 19
Anthony Stolarz – 12
Calvin Pickard – 11
Michal Neuvirth – 7
Alex Lyon – 2
Mike McKenna – 1
Cam Talbot – 0

The opportunity for Talbot arose because Friday’s game is the second game of a back-to-back following Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Philadelphia is still clinging to slim playoff hopes with a six-point gap between them and the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Talbot hasn’t played since Feb. 9, but is certainly eager to get back between the pipes again. Hart is expected to return soon, so who knows when Talbot will get another look after Friday. In the meantime, enjoying making history!

“I don’t know if it’s something you really want to be a part of as a goalie or not,” Talbot said on Thursday via the Inquirer. “But here we are.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Why Scott Gordon chose Elliott over Hart for Stadium Series start

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers from Lincoln Financial Field. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

PHILADELPHIA — Through Scott Gordon’s four-minute explanation as to why Brian Elliott will start Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins over Carter Hart you could feel how tough of a decision it was for him.

Having coached Hart at AHL Lehigh Valley until both were promoted on the same day back in December following the firing of Dave Hakstol, Gordon has seen Hart’s growth as a professional on two levels now. 

Since the recall of Hart and “interim” tag put on Gordon, the Flyers have taken 35 out of a possible 60 points to put themselves just in a bit of a race for an Eastern Conference wild card spot. Those postseason hopes, however, took a big hit this week with back-to-back losses to Tampa Bay and Montreal this week, leaving them seven points back with 21 games to go.

Hart had to be pulled in both games with Elliott impressing the head coach in relief.

“The hard part [is] if I had to go with my heart, 100 percent, the easy decision is to pick Carter,” Gordon said Friday after the Flyers’ practice at Lincoln Financial Field. “I think the world of him. I’ve been so impressed with how he’s been able to come up here and play, and it really bothered me to have to make the final decision as to not playing him. Two weeks ago it was looking like that was going to be the decision.”

Hart was disappointed, but understood Gordon’s choice of playing Elliott.

“For sure, you want to play. You want to play every game,” Hart said. “Right now, even though it’s an outdoor game, it’s a crucial two points for us. The last two games I haven’t been at my best and Brian’s done a good job coming in relief both times. It is what it is, you can’t control that. What you can control is how you respond to it. 

“It’s disappointing, but you’ve got to approach it the right way and can’t let it set you back. You’ve just got to come back ready to work and we’ve got a lot of hockey coming up and that’s where the focus is at.”

When Gordon broke the news to Hart on Friday, he made sure to emphasize just how valuable the 20-year-old netminder has been to the Flyers. He was called up during a rough time in the season and carrying the expectations that he was the franchise’s “goalie of the future.” He’s exceeded those expectations so far and has played himself into the Calder Trophy conversation while helping the team make a late-season charge at the playoffs.

Gordon wanted to choose Hart as Saturday’s starter, but approached the decision as if it were any other regular season game. If any of his goalies were pulled two games in a row he was going to switch it up for that third game. Outdoor game or not, he was making his choice in the best interest of the team at the moment.

“This game on Saturday, we’re looking at Moose [Elliott] the way he played the last two games, he’s played really well, and if he’s able to get us a win [Saturday], when it’s all said and done it’s about what’s going to get us into the playoffs and that would be the first step,” Gordon said. “Does he give us the best chance? Based on performance right now, yeah. If we base it on performance from a week ago or last Sunday, we’re probably talking about Carter. Right now, given the way it’s gone, I just felt like I wanted to give our team the best chance for Saturday to win.”

(You could ponder the thought that this is a way for the Flyers to showcase a healthy Elliott before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.)

Elliott found out he was starting just before the Flyers took to the ice late Friday afternoon. He had missed two months due to a lower-body injury and worked himself back, which included a brief AHL stint.

After how the last two games went, the 33-year-old Elliott wasn’t sure what Gordon’s decision would ultimately be. He would have been happy just to play a backup role and sit on the bench. Now he’ll be between the pipes in front of 70,000 fans under the lights.

“Going back and getting a chance to play these last two games and feeling good about it and feeling good about my game, I know it was a tough decision to make,” Elliott said. “[Hart] was a big part of getting this team to this situation that we’re in and chasing a playoff spot right now. It’s a tough decision. I don’t envy that has to make it.

“For me, you just have to put all those things to the side and try to enjoy the moment and go out there and try to be the best for the guys in front of you.”

UPDATE: The Flyers sent this Tweet out early Saturday morning:

MORE 2019 STADIUM SERIES:
Penguins ready to enjoy Stadium Series, but focus is on two points
Rain could be an issue for Penguins-Flyers Stadium Series game
Scott Hartnell Q&A

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Liam McHugh will anchor studio coverage on-site in Philadelphia alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones, and Jeremy Roenick.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Trade: Flyers add Talbot, Oilers open up space for Sekera

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Cam Talbot is lucky No. 8.

The Philadelphia Flyers added Talbot to the fold late Friday night, acquiring the 31-year-old goaltender from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.

Should Talbot get into one of the Flyers’ final 25 games — which he likely will — they will be the first team in NHL history to use eight goalies in a season. That just shows how weird this season has been on Broad Street. After some early season struggles, which saw general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol fired within a 21-day span, they’ve ripped off a run that has seen them take 23 points from their last 14 games, putting them eight points out of an Eastern Conference wild card place and the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.

Emerging from the goalie carousel has been Carter Hart, the franchise’s goaltender of the future up until Dec. 17. He’s assumed the title of “goalie of the now” since after helping the Flyers win eight starts in a row and being a vital part of their recent run.

Talbot, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, comes to Philadelphia with an established relationship with Hart. The two have worked out together in the summer. “He’s a good mentor, a great guy, a good goalie,” Hart said on Thursday, adding that he called Talbot the night before his NHL debut for some advice.

This stablizes the goalie situation for the moment as Brian Elliott works his way back from injury down in the AHL on a conditioning stint and Michal Neuvirth is currently on injured reserve. In net had been Hart and Stolarz, the 25-year-old who was their second-round pick in 2012. Mike McKenna‘s been in the mix as well, but he’s only played twice since Dec. 28.

GM Chuck Fletcher will now get a good couple of months to see up close if Talbot, who’s posted a .909 even strength save percentage in 31 appearances with the Oilers, should be considered for an extension beyond this season and possibly act as a veteran backup/1B to Hart going forward.

This move for the Oilers helped them shed salary in order to have room to activate defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had surgery in August to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Stolarz can be a restricted free agent this summer, while they already have Mikko Koskinen locked up after extending the netminder for three years in January.

MORE: PHT NHL Trade Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers’ goalie nightmare continues with Elliott injury

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Life presents few constants: death, taxes, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ goalies letting them down.

The latest nightmare comes as the Flyers announce that Brian Elliott will miss approximately two weeks with a lower-body injury. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, it would probably be safest to assume that Elliott will miss 5-6 games, as there’s a substantial gap between Philly’s Dec. 1 game against the Penguins and their Dec. 6 contest against the Blue Jackets.

Sat, Nov. 17: vs. Tampa Bay
Wed, Nov. 21: @ Buffalo
Fri, Nov. 23: vs. New York
Sat, Nov. 24: @ Toronto
Tue, Nov. 27: vs. Ottawa
Sat, Dec. 1: @ Pittsburgh
Thu, Dec. 6: vs. Columbus

Elliott suffered his injury (or re-injury?) as Kyle Palmieri scored a wraparound goal during the Flyers’ eventual 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

It’s been an up-and-down season for Elliott. Not that long ago, Elliott seemed to be getting on track, rattling off a four-game winning streak while allowing just four goals Oct. 30 – Nov. 10 (albeit with one of those victories happening in a relief appearance).

Even during these past two losses, the 33-year-old has mostly given the Flyers a chance to win, allowing two goals each time (though that Palmieri goal was the end of his Thursday night).

With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, the Flyers go back to what sometimes feels like an unendingly bleak situation. Calvin Pickard has been the Flyers’ go-to guy, and that hasn’t worked out well at all. While Elliott’s been merely adequate overall (.911 save percentage), Pickard’s sporting a disastrous .865 save percentage over seven games.

This isn’t the first time such woes have inspired many to wonder if the Flyers should just bite the bullet and given much-ballyhooed goalie prospect Carter Hart some NHL-level exposure, and it’s probably not going to be the last time people call for such a decision.

Like it or not, it seems like management (maybe stubbornly?) is sticking to the plan with Hart, as the Flyers instead recalled Alex Lyon from the AHL.

GM Ron Hextall has been loading up with options in net, creating an unsettlingly stark quantity over quality situation. Along with Hart and Lyon, the Flyers could also conceivably turn to Anthony Stolarz if Pickard continues to struggle … yet those goalies are struggling in their own right.

If you look at the small sample size of AHL games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, you won’t see much to like, and Hart’s shaky play (.893 save percentage in eight games) is no exception.

Between huge goalie headaches and plenty of fans calling for the ouster of head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers have been awfully frustrating lately. Despite all of their talent, perhaps it’s fitting that this team currently sits at a middling 9-9-1?

The temptation would be to imagine how different things would be for the Flyers if they could actually enjoy some good goaltending but … you and Flyers fans know that story all too well.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Could a Hart and a Lyon be the future in Philly’s crease?

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It’s a place where goalies go to die.

Just ask Ilya Bryzgalov, who famously said as much when talking about coming to the Philadelphia Flyers in the lead up to the Winter Classic in 2012 against New York Rangers.

‘Bryz’ righty predicted his own fate, sharing the same doom as many others who came before him in the City of Brotherly Love, falling off the map not long after and never finding his way back.

Recent memory hasn’t been kind to the Flyers at the goalie position. They once had Sergei Bobrovsky, but traded him, essentially, for a bag of pucks to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There, Bob went on to supplant Steve Mason in goal and win two Vezina’s.

Mason ended up signing with the Flyers and managed a decent season in his first year. But from there he started to spiral downward. This summer, after an injury-plagued season with the Winnipeg Jets, who signed him last summer as a free agent, was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens following a trade right before Free Agent Frenzy kicked off as the Jets looked to dump salary.

We can go back further, too.

There was the Robert Esche era, the Antero Niittymaki experiment, Martin Biron, Brian Boucher and a host of other failures in the Flyers’ crease.

Last season, Brian Elliott wasn’t exactly earth-shattering acquisition that the Flyers hope he’d be when they snapped him up for two years a year ago. And backup Michal Neuvirth, who might have the potential to be a starter in the NHL, can’t stay healthy for long enough to see it through.

It leaves the Flyers in a precarious position, despite a stable of goaltenders heading into this season.

Both Elliott and Neuvirth’s contracts will expire at the end of this season. The Flyers signed Alex Lyon to a two-year deal on Saturday, ensuring the guy who helped the Flyers into the playoffs last season down the stretch would be around to fight for a spot in the NHL next season (and provide some much-needed depth should Neuvirth go down, again).

The Flyers seemingly have their ace in the hole in Carter Hart, a highly-touted 2016 draft pick out of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.

Hart led Team Canada to a gold medal the World Junior Hockey Championships this past winter and was named the WHL’s Player of the Year, the WHL Goalie of the Year and the Canadian Hockey League’s Goalie of the Year (for the second time) this past season — his last in junior hockey.

His junior stats put him among the pantheon of CHL’s best ever to man the crease.

And all of that has led to a hype train going full-steam ahead for Flyers’ fans, who’ve been starving for a legitimate superstar netminder for years, if not decades.

It remains to be seen what general manager Ron Hextall does with Hart this season but managing Hart’s progression as a pro is paramount.

The last thing the Flyers want to do is rush Hart and stunt his growth. Elliott and Neuvirth can hold down the fort for another season, allowing Hart to get a year of pro hockey under his belt in Lehigh Valley, while having Lyon ready to answer the call should someone get injured on the big club.

If the Flyers move Neuvirth via trade, Lyon seems the de facto replacement to back up Elliott, still leaving Hart time to hone his craft in the minors.

There’s hope, it seems, in Philadelphia.

There has been before.

Whether or not this time is any different, only time will tell.

Hart’s going to have to handle more than just his on-ice game as he works his way into the NHL. Lyon showed some good signs last year under pressure late in the season.

For now, they’re the future beyond next season.

Perhaps, finally, the curse can be broken for Flyers’ fans.

What’s your take, Philly fans?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck