Their two goalies, therefore, guard one net
Enduring not a breach, but an expansion
Like gold to talent thinness beat.
If the key question for Columbus is how much of 2014 Sergei Bobrovsky can look like 2013 Sergei Bobrovsky, his former team's X-factor may be how much either of the Flyers' goalies can distance themselves from, well, their prior selves.
On the question of the awful young Steve Mason and the damaged old Ray Emery, Broad Street Hockey recently looked at career even strength numbers and found:
Emery has been better, but the difference really isn't very large -- something like four saves per thousand shots.
It's not that neither goalie can be good: goalies do surprising things all the time, Mason was good for (part of) his rookie year and Emery was good last year. Rather, it's that -- stop me if you've heard this before -- both Flyers goalies have checkered records at best, leaving you to wonder if they can help the Flyers overcome other weaknesses.
Who has the more promising caveat? The kind of hip injury which felled Bo Jackson nearly ended Emery's career too. Instead, he made a remarkable comeback with Anaheim and even put up sterling numbers with Chicago last year. Alas, 21 games as the Stanley Cup winner's backup is quite nothing in terms of using numbers to evaluate a goalie. The Flyers must hope that at age 30 and soon 31 Emery will show the hip injury was merely a major interruption in a career as a solid goalie.
Mason, meanwhile, has the Calder Trophy-winning rookie season and that's about it. There are all kinds of questions and theories about what sidetracked him, but the ultimate result was Columbus showed a lot of patience in trying to get Mason to be the goalie they thought he was. Finally, they gave up.
The Flyers jumped. After seven games of him in orange and black, there was this:
"I’m a big Steve Mason fan," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "I know there’s a short window that we got to watch him here, but he played very well. Even the game he lost, he played well."
So there's that.
Goalies decline so soon
We are scarce our (Bernie) Parent's shadow cast at noon
However, any Islanders fan who has looked at Evgeni Nabokov's numbers knows weak goaltending alone cannot keep a team out of the playoffs. Nabokov had his star moments on the way to 23 wins in 41 games last season, and Mason or Emery could do that too.
But they'll either have to be much better than Nabokov, or you'll have to believe their blueline with Mark Streit and their forward corps with Vincent Lecavalier is enough of an upgrade to make up last season's six-point gap behind the Islanders in the 48-game season.
Of some importance: This goalie tandem costs the Flyers only $3.15 million total, a nice price for a team pushing the cap limits and buying out Daniel Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov. If you're going to gamble on average (at best) goaltending, at least don't pay a lot for it.
In their two-decades-long quest for championship caliber goaltending, that's one lesson the Flyers may have learned, or relearned. For now.