For so many years, the most glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Flyers, and likely the reason they missed out on several golden opportunities to win a Stanley Cup (six losses in the Final plus an additional five losses in the Conference Finals in the 47 seasons since their last championship) had been the fact that they didn’t have a championship-caliber goaltender.

Sure, there were a couple cases where the goalie was just fine, if not the reason they got as far as they did – Pelle Lindbergh in 1985 and Ron Hextall in 1987 come to mind – but the other years where there were great expectations, the goaltending position left a lot to be desired.

The Flyers, in their current iteration, are not a championship-contender. Nor are they close. But for the first time, maybe in the entirety of the franchise’s history, they may have not just one, but two competent, starter-quality goaltenders who aren’t just “competitive” enough to keep teams in games, but well could be good enough to carry a team on a deep playoff run.

Carter Hart’s spot in this category is already well-established. And while he still might have another level to reach, we’ve already seen how good he can be behind a structured defensive team. Not to mention, he’s been looked upon as a savior for this organization for quite some time, and deservedly so.

While his numbers this year have been mostly in the middle of the pack (2.88 GAA is 15th among 34 goalies who have played at least 25 games, and his .910 save percentage ranks 17th in that same group), Hart is operating behind a team that doesn’t possess the puck a lot (their shot attempts percentage is just 47.1, ranking 25th out of 32 teams) and also give up a lot of chances, yielding 48.9 shot attempts against per game. Only three teams have had more shots attempted against them per game played this season – Anaheim (54.2), Columbus (51.8) and Chicago (50.7), and they are all tied for the worst point total in the NHL.

So, he’s done his part, and there’s no question he can be a goalie that you can rely on for a long playoff run – if you have a team that can compete at that level in front of him.

The other goalie is Sam Ersson. He’s more of the unknown – although he is making quite the impression in his first NHL season. By beating Calgary on Monday, he became just the eighth goaltender in NHL history to start his career 6-0-0. He’s started seven games and appeared in nine, so yes, it’s a small sample size, but the Flyers have been high on Ersson internally for awhile now, and until recently have privately felt that he’s been the best goalie in their organization for the past six months – and that includes Hart.

Before they went on their current road trip, coach John Tortorella went on the Flyers in-house podcast Flyers Daily and not only declared Ersson the backup ahead of Felix Sandstrom, who is still on the roster as the Flyers are carrying three goalies, but said something else about Ersson that should have gotten a greater public response than it has:

“(Ersson) has been our best goalie, quite honestly, right on (since) camp.”

That’s high praise from the coach. There was more after the win in Calgary:

“Every time we’ve asked him to do something, he’s played very well,” Tortorella said. “It’s really encouraging, not only for the short-term here, but the long-term also.”

There it is again. Another reference to the sustainability of Ersson as an NHL goalie.

Privately, Tortorella has been a huge supporter of Ersson, but also recognizes that he’s still young and can’t be completely thrown to the wolves. Additionally, Hart is a very good goalie who doesn’t deserve to be usurped from his spot as the Flyers No. 1 goalie at this time.

But that doesn’t mean Tortorella doesn’t see a future where Ersson is a go-to guy for this team. That’s not meant in a snarky manner, or to be considered a wild hot take. It’s very real to that there are people in the organization – Torts among them – who believe Ersson has that high-end, No. 1 goalie potential.

It also may never be possible for him to achieve that here. Hart could continue to play well and lock down his status as the No. 1 goalie even further, no matter how well Ersson plays behind him. And it’s also possible that eventually, Chuck Fletcher, Danny Briere, or whomever La Nosa Costra aranciata decides will be the next person to run the Flyers front office, may have to make a decision between these two goalies and then parlay the other into something else that could benefit the team.

But right now, this is a good problem to have. Right now, having two reliable goalies you could go to on a nightly basis is very refreshing. It’s going to continue to keep the Flyers in games. It’s going to continue to keep them competitive with teams who are really quite more talented.

And while the Flyers have glaring weaknesses elsewhere and guys with hefty or difficult-to-move contracts (see tweet below), the one place they have to feel most comfortable is in the game’s most important position, something this organization hasn’t been able to boast in at least 35 years.

Torts’ message to Sanheim and Farabee

Travis Sanheim was a healthy scratch Monday in Calgary. This is the same guy, who you see on the list above, that the Flyers excitedly extended for eight years at $50 million the night before the season opener.

Since that extension, Sanheim has done nothing but regress. He’s had a terrible season. So much so that Torts decided to bench him as he went home to Calgary where he would have plenty of family and friends who would want to attend to see him play.

That’s tough love right there.

For Farabee, it’s been getting worse by the game. His goal-scoring drought reached 17 games and he was demoted to fourth line duty to start the game in Calgary and then was rooted to the bench for almost the entirety, playing just 3:52.

And what is even worse for Farabee is that even after Travis Konecny was injured in the second period, not to return, Torts kept his butt glued to the bench, opting to go with three lines and not including Farabee.

It’s like that seen in Hoosiers where Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) won’t put Rade Butcher (Steve Hollar) back into the game after Merle Webb (Kent Poole) fouls out to send a message and opts to finish the game with just four players on the court, telling the referee “My team is on the floor.”


Now, you may ask, what did the coach have to say about either of these decisions?

Nothing. Not because he dodged the questions. The questions apparently weren’t asked. That’s a completely different head-scratching conversation for another time and space, but the reality of this situation is, both Sanheim and Farabee need to get their heads out of their rear ends if they want to be a part of the solution in Philadelphia, because this move by the coach wasn’t subtle. It was in your face. And considering he has consistently said all season that he wants to figure out who on this roster will be part of the rebuild going forward and who won’t be, with just six weeks left in the season, this isn’t the time to be buried underneath the coach’s doghouse.

Konecny injury

Speaking of that Konecny injury… this doesn’t look good:

He skated right for the tunnel and never returned. Brandon’s report of him leaving the arena in a sling likely means he’s not playing Tuesday in Edmonton, and then it’s hold your breath time on the extent of the injury.

After hitting a slump in his season following a torrid start, Konecny has rebounded nicely recently and he had a goal and an assist before leaving the game.

He has 27 goals and 27 assists for 54 points in 52 games to lead the Flyers in scoring this season.

[the_ad id=”103880″]