Philadelphia – the place where goaltending goes to die. In their entire 54-year history, the Philadelphia Flyers have had a limited number of star netminders – Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh, and Ron Hextall are the ones that typically come to mind. For as long as many Flyers fans have been watching the team, there has been a constantly-rotating carousel of goalies on the roster. Some of them were good, some of them were bad, some were acquired via free agency, and some were drafted by the team – but none of them have been great.
In regards to the starting goaltender, the Orange and Black finally have a burgeoning, young, homegrown starter in Carter Hart, who Flyers fans can expect to see manning the net for years to come. At the rate he’s going, it’s possible he may even join that list of iconic goaltenders in franchise history. On any night he is playing, you can reasonably expect a great, game-stealing performance from no. 79. But one of the reasons that the Flyers have been mired with goaltending issues is that they had woefully inadequate backup goaltenders – ones who were either oft-injured, not NHL caliber, or just not good. What the Philadelphia Flyers have desperately needed is a solid backup netminder, and he didn’t even need to be a spectacular one; they just needed someone who could hold his own when getting starts, and perhaps most importantly, could hold down the fort if Hart were to ever be out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
Enter Martin Jones. When Chuck Fletcher signed Jones to a one-year contract this summer, many fans (myself included) were very underwhelmed. Prior to signing in Philadelphia, Jones had three straight years with a season save percentage of .896 – he didn’t have a save percentage over .900 since 2017-2018 when he recorded a .915. With other options on the market such as Braden Holtby, Jonathan Bernier, and Linus Ullmark, many had hoped that Fletcher would have shored up that position, especially in the wake of a season where the goaltending tandem of Hart and Brian Elliott faced a myriad of issues. If Hart and Jones were to struggle, it would render every other move that Fletcher made this past summer irrelevant – without good goaltending, it is difficult to go far in this league.
In the preseason, it appeared that fans’ fears about Jones were right, as Jones struggled mightily during preseason action. Not only that, but Jones received the majority of starts in the preseason and left a lot to be desired. Yet sometime between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, Jones evolved into a phoenix – the old Jones burned away and a new Jones emerged from the ashes. Once the games began to count, Jones has far exceeded expectations. In his 4 starts this year Jones has posted a .931 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average. Jones is undoubtedly proving our prior skepticism wrong, but Flyers fans are likely more than happy to be eating their words regarding the 31-year-old netminder.
It may be premature, but this season feels as if the tide is finally changing in the discourse surrounding Philadelphia’s goaltending; for once, there are no complaints about the Flyers’ netminders, which is something that hasn’t occurred in who knows how long. Hart has played spectacularly, but Jones’ stellar play has been one of the biggest surprises to start the year, and an understated reason for the Flyers’ success thus far. Jones’ contract may expire this summer, but if he continues to play the way he has been, many would be comfortable in bringing him back. At long last, Flyers fans no longer have to pencil in a loss when the backup gets the start; instead, we now have a backup who can give us a chance to win in Martin Jones.
By: Katie Bogan (@cl4udegiroux)
photo credit: @NHLFlyers