With only 16 games remaining, the Flyers gained a very important point yesterday in a shootout loss to the hated New York Rangers. They are currently two points behind the Rangers and hold the 8th and final playoff spot.
As the season winds down and after watching a shaky first period yesterday, I ask you this; Does having two starting goalies help or hurt this team?
Antero Niittymaki and Marty Biron are both great goaltenders and need to see ice time in order to stay sharp and focused for the upcoming playoffs. I feel that having two starting goalies on this hockey club has both its positives and negatives. On the positive side, I believe it provides great depth in the case of an injury at a position that is usually tough to fill with premier players. It also provides the Flyers with great trade bait as many teams are constantly searching for the next great goaltender to anchor their team.
However, I believe the constant shuffle between starting goaltenders is taking its toll in a negative way. Niittymaki who has been sidelined for a few games in favor of Biron looked awful out there in the first period, giving up three goals on 13 shots. He came out flat, and looked pretty rusty out there, reacting what seemed to be seconds late to a few of those shots he let get by. In the second period he gave up a fourth goal, prompting the pull and allowing Marty Biron to take the ice. Marty played great stopping all 21 shots fired his way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Antero as a goaltender on this team, but I think it needs to be set in stone who our “starting” goalie really is. With the playoff push in full swing, Marty needs all the work he can get especially against a division rival and higher seed in the New York Rangers. He should have played the entire game and who knows, we might have even pulled out the win and been able to force a tie with the Rangers in the 7th spot. When asked about why Niitty and not Biron, head coach John Stevens said this:
“One, he had played so much lately,” Stevens explained. “Two, he’s not had a lot of success in back-to-back outings (now 0-4 in second games). Niitty has played well here before. I had a feeling that would happen today.”
Fair enough answer, but not great. I can see why Niitty would get the start, but don’t you want to push your starter and see what he’s made of as the playoffs near. I mean, you are going to be playing back to back games in the playoffs and most likely going to be facing a team that is as good, if not better then the Rangers right. Time to get our game faces on boys and start grinding this out.
How about Jeff Carter? This guy has been playing incredible hockey of late after lots of trade speculation as the deadline approached. Two goals in the loss to the Rangers, and one goal and an assist in the win against the Islanders. During the 3rd period yesterday it seemed like Carter was always around the puck. With the increased ice time, especially in crunch time, Carter has been a major asset in the Flyers small streak in their last three games.