March 29, 2016
UPDATE [7:09 p.m.] -- GM Ron Hextall told reporters on Tuesday night that Emery wouldn't supplant Stolarz as the Flyers No. 2 goalie and was brought in to add depth.
Hexy says Emery brought here for depth; would be behind Stolarz.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) March 29, 2016
Steve Mason has been playing really well in net lately for the Philadelphia Flyers. The only problem is, he's playing been quite a bit ever since Michael Neuvirth went down with an injury earlier this month.
Goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz was called up from Lehigh Valley, but he's yet to make his NHL debut as the Flyers (37-25-13) continue to battle the Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot. Currently, the Flyers, who have a game in hand, are tied with the Red Wings at 87 points, but the two teams still have one head-to-head matchup left (April 6th).
Mason has started -- and finished -- all six games since Neuvirth's injury and has gone 3-2-1 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. Obviously, he's been playing well enough to deserve every start, but as the minutes continue to add up and the playoffs inch closer, the team needs to make sure he gets some rest if it hope to make a postseason run.
The ability to sub in Neuvirth and not miss a beat was a luxury the Flyers no longer have. And with their playoff spot anything but locked up, they've been hesitant to put an unproven prospect in net when each point could be the difference between playing meaningful hockey and hitting the links in April.
Instead, it seems, Ron Hextall and Co. are calling on old friend Ray Emery, who spent three seasons in orange and black and last played in the NHL during the 2014-15 season with the Flyers.
On Tuesday, the team announced that they would be bringing Emery in on a try-out basis beginning Wednesday, and if he's still in playing shape, the 33-year-old Canadian could take Stolarz's place on the bench behind Mason.
If that's the case, it would be just in time for the Flyers' game against Braden Holtby and the first-place Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Why did I use Holtby and not Alexander Ovechkin as the reference there? That's because the mere presence of Emery could rattle the Caps goaltender.
Obviously this move has more to do with the team's desire to have a veteran backup than getting inside the opposing goalie's head, but it's hardly an indictment of Stolarz. In 31 games with the Phantoms this season, the former second-round pick (45th overall in 2012) was 9-13-4 with a .905 save percentage and a 3.28 goals against average.
Sure, you want your young goalie to get meaningful minutes early in his career, but not at the expense of a potential playoff run. And because that position is largely played between the ears, the last thing you want to do is shatter his confidence before he even gets a real shot.
With the Flyers set to play an important back-to-back this weekend (vs. Senators; at Penguins), they likely want to give Mason a rest in one of those games, but not at the expensive of a 22-year-old prospect's psyche.
Here's more from Emery and his expectations for what will be his third stint with the Flyers: