PHILADELPHIA – Ray Emery might have a losing record. His overall stats, at a glance, might not seem all that impressive.
But if you look closer, and sift through a few things, you’d find that Emery has truly been invaluable at times for the Flyers this season.
Emery has six wins and one shootout loss. That’s 13 of the 56 points the Flyers have to this point this season.
And with the exception of the win he picked up as a relief pitcher for Steve Mason against the Islanders last Saturday – one in which he faced only five shots in 26 minutes (stopping them all) as the Flyers stormed back for a victory – it can be argued that Emery was primary reason the Flyers picked up 11 of those points.
Whether it was the shutout of New Jersey, or the surprising start in Pittsburgh in which he stopped 30 of 31 shots, or even holding down the fort with 31 saves in an overtime win in a rematch with the Devils, Emery has been on point.
Even in some of the losses – a home loss to the Devils that prompted a closed-door meeting in the locker room by the players; A 2-0 loss in Minnesota. A 4-2 loss in Tampa where the offense didn’t show up until there were two minutes left in the game (Emery allowed just three in this game and two against the Devils. The others were empty-netters) - Emery deserved a better fate.
In the seven games (6-0-1) the Flyers have earned a point with Emery in net, his numbers are astounding. He has posted a 1.22 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.
When he made 40 saves in New York Monday, it was only the third time in his career – one that has spanned 10 seasons and 246 games and counting – that he made at least 40 saves and lost. It happened once in 2007 as a member of the Ottawa Senators (against Toronto) and then again in 2012 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks when he dropped a wild 5-4 game in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
There is an old adage in hockey that says when you have two goalies, you have no goalies – meaning that you need to lean on a true No. 1 guy to be successful in the league.
But that’s likely a belief that is too old-school for the modern game.
Because now, with the game played at a faster speed and with games compacted together more than ever, a capable second goalie can be the difference between a playoff berth and another summer loaded with questions.
“The last year and a half with the lockout season being condensed and with this season being condensed because of the Olympics, even if you have a guy getting the bulk of the work if you want to have a playoff run, you want that guy to be well-rested and have a few nights off,” Emery said. “To have two guys who you are comfortable with, it’s a bonus.”
And Emery has been a bonus if you break it down by individual games. Sure a 2.85 goals against average and a .901 save percentage seem rather pedestrian. But Emery has made only 18 appearances this season, so those numbers are easily skewed by one bad game.
The toughest outing for Emery this season was a 7-2 loss in Chicago in which he gave up six goals in two periods of work.
For the sake of this argument, let’s imagine that game didn’t happen.
If that were the case, Emery would have a 2.57 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
Steve Mason, who has received high praise – and a new contract to boot – has a 2.56 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
So where’s the love for Razor?
“It’s a big mental game,” Emery said when talking about how he approaches the role of being the backup. “You get more repetition in practice but mentally there are certain things that I focus on and try to keep things simple when you do play.”
Figuring out that mental game has been a work in progress for Emery, who has certainly changed as a player – and a goalie – over the years.
Once a brash, confident and outspoken young star-in-the-making who led the Ottawa Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, Emery has endured a lot of change and overcome a lot of long odds in the injury department just to get back to being a backup goalie.
“You learn from all your successes as well as your mistakes,” Emery said. “You pick up a lot of things along the way too learning how to focus properly and deal with different situations. I think I’m still working at it and hopefully getting even better at it. It’s a system in a bunch of different ways for me – Physically, mentally and strategically. It’s always building toward getting better.”
NOTES: Jake Voracek (upper-body injury) will be a game-time decision for the Flyers. He is expected to test it in pre-game warmups. If he can’t go, the Flyers will play Chris Vandevelde (healthy scratch the last two games) and Jay Rosehill (expected scratch tonight if Voracek goes). They didn’t recall anyone from the Phantoms… Steve Mason gets the start in goal for the Flyers.Only four players skated for the Flyers Tuesday – Hal Gill and Erik Gustafsson, who are likely healthy scratches and Rosehill and Vandevelde, who are on Voracek watch.
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