With Michal Neuvirth out for a month due to a knee injury, Anthony Stolarz will likely make his NHL debut sometime in November or December. With a road set of back to backs this week in Florida against the Panthers and Lightning, the time is perfect to give Stolarz his NHL debut in one of these games.
Via Hockey DB
Stolarz has the AHL body of work to justify giving him a shot sometime during Neuvirth’s absence. The Flyers have back to backs on November 22 (at Panthers), and November 23 (at Lightning), December 3-4 (home vs Chicago, at Nashville) and December 10-11 (home vs Dallas, at Detroit) which means, with all three back to backs involving travel, getting Stolarz a game or two is probably in the cards. Also, given the UFA status of both Mason and Neuvirth, Stolarz is likely in the cards as the goalie of the future.
Goaltenders are voodoo compared to skaters, there’s no equivalency formula that says that a goalie with a save percentage will translate a certain way in higher leagues. So, with no math to fall back on, the realistic expectation of Stolarz isn’t rooted in any type of numbers like it would be for a skater, but rather goal-setting what is reasonably expected if he wants to stay in the mix for the backup job on next season’s team.
Let’s assume for a minute that that Stolarz gets 3 games and 1 relief appearance, he sees one game in each back to back and relieves Mason for a period or so in another game. If that’s the case, let’s assume that Stolarz sees 100 shots or so over these three games. As such, allowing 8 or 9 goals would put him in the league average area of Save percentage. Of course, it’s still a minuscule sample, so even then, it wouldn’t be possible to draw any type of reasonable conclusion on Stolarz talent from 3-4 games.
For Stolarz, these games would be the learning experience, adjusting to the speed differences of the NHL game as compared to the AHL game. If he takes over and sends the team on a run, that’s a good thing, if he struggles, it’s not the end of the world.
The most reasonable expectation is that 3-4 games will not define his career. Even if he struggles in his debut, that doesn’t mean he’s done as an NHL goalie, just as even if he posts a shutout to start his career, that doesn’t mean he’s destined for greatness. When it comes to Stolarz, being level headed and open-minded is key and drawing any kind of conclusion based on a few games is unreasonable. He deserves a shot, and he’ll go back to the AHL with the knowledge of what to do and how to improve, and for his long term development, that’s the most important thing.