Another Year, Another Goalie Controversy


John Stevens will stay with the hot hand tonight, starting "backup" goalie Antero Niittymaki for the third straight time. Niitty has won his last three starts, letting up only three goals over that stretch. He's posted a shutout and two 0.96 save percentages, including a team record for saves in a game. The typical "standing on his head" goalie cliché would apply here.

Watching the game will be last year's big acquisition, Marty Biron, who is unfortunately accustomed to spectator hockey. In Buffalo, Biron backed up both Dominic Hasek and Ryan Miller despite being good enough to start on many NHL teams. After a hot start to this season, Marty cooled off, and a series of back-to-back games enabled Niitty get a few starts. The Finland native, who like most goalies thinks he's worthy of starting took the opportunity, and basically took the decision out of Coach Stevens' hands. You simply can't bench a hot goaltender, especially if your other option has struggled at times recently.

And so we likely have yet another goalie controversy (or "tandem" if you want to be boring about it), although I imagine Stevens' leash will be short. If Niitty starts to stumble, I anticipate we'll see Biron quickly retake the greater share of playing time. If Biron in turn struggles, then we'll know that Philly just isn't meant to have a bona fide, without-a-doubt starter, as history continues to show us.

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