Phantoms to rely on heart of Lyon entering playoffs

  • Lyon
  • 20/04/2017
Phantoms to rely on heart of Lyon entering playoffs
"No team wins a championship without good goaltending," Gordon said, as he compared the situation to having good pitching in baseball and a good quarterback in football.

A goalie himself in his playing days, Gordon certainly knows what he's talking about. And with Anthony Stolarz out for the entirety of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs with an injury, rookie Alex Lyon will be the one between the pipes for the Phantoms.

So if Lehigh Valley wants to win it all, starting with Friday night's home opener against Hershey, it'll need solid play from Lyon, maybe more than any other individual on the roster.

But anybody who watched Lyon's first two regular-season games as a pro back in October wouldn't have entertained a wager at the time that the 24-year-old would end up as the team's starting goaltender in the franchise's first playoff run since 2009. At one point Lyon himself was left wondering if he was going to be sent down.

"It's just been a roller coaster of emotion," Lyon said.

Following a strong training camp and preseason, Lyon turned in two less than desirable performances to begin his Phantoms career. The team in front of him didn't help in either game, ones that Lyon still clearly remembers. Earlier this week when they were brought up, without hesitation, he recalled exactly how many goals he gave up combined in those two games 10.

Stolarz got five of the next six starts. The one game Lyon got into during that stretch he fared well, stopping 26 of 27 pucks directed his way in a 4-1 win at Utica. But then Michael Neuvirth, netminder for the parent club Flyers, went down and Stolarz was summoned to Philadelphia for almost two months.

It was into the fire for Lyon.

Because of the circumstances, Lyon started 19 of 20 Phantoms games from Nov. 13 through their last game of 2016, on Dec. 30. The Phantoms won 13 of those 19 with Lyon allowing just one goal or posting a shutout in five of them.

Overall this year Lyon, who was in net for a majority of the Phantoms' games, went 27-14-5 with a 2.74 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. Taking out just those first two games, his goals against drops to 2.63 and his save percentage rises to .915.

When assessing his season, Lyon doesn't look at the numbers. He tries to evaluate his first pro season objectively and when doing that sees enormous strides made.

And even though he gained valuable experience by playing much more than anybody thought he would, that's not where Lyon believes he learned his most valuable lesson.

Lyon thought the most important thing for him was learning how to handle things when he wasn't "the guy."

He was the only goalie on the team in youth hockey, which he played starting at age five. Through two years of juniors and after his fifth game at Yale, he was the starter. He never really learned how to play with the pressure of another capable goaltender on the roster.

That's something he believes he needed to experience if he wants to excel at the NHL level, regardless if it's as a starter or a backup.

For now, although Lyon is still a rookie his play has proved to all that he belongs and is up to the task.

"The first year he basically showed that he's more than capable of doing the job," Gordon said. "That's where the confidence came in. He had a long stretch of success [in the first half] and it carried over into the second half of the year where you could say he doesn't play like a rookie."

Having experience in the extra pressures this time of year brings, even though it's from college, could help with his confidence over the next few weeks. In his three years at Yale, his team won two Ivy League championships and played in the ECAC playoffs, which is set up with the first two rounds best-of-three series. He also played in the high-stakes pressure cooker of the one-and-done NCAA tournament.

Having had a taste of all that postseason play, Lyon thinks the way the AHL conducts its playoff tournament a first-round best-of-five series with the following three each a best-of-seven suits his game.

"I find that I really shine through my body of work," Lyon said. "So maybe I'm not going to go on ridiculous stretches or anything like that but I think my consistency, my ability to bounce back over a five- or seven-game series, that starts to shine a little bit more."

Lyon would like to look back and say his first season was great, or it was a lot of fun, and while it was at times, he acknowledges the challenges he faced. The adversity though, may have in turn given him the mindset he needs to be successful in the postseason.

"You can kind of draw on that and look back and say, 'You know what? These playoffs aren't going to be perfect,'" Lyon said. "You can't go in and say 'All right, I've prepared all year for this.' Go in with the right attitude. They're a good team, they're going to make a push. I think it's just important to go in with that evenness."

Lyon has shown that even-keeled approach all year. There's no reason to believe he won't display it now.
  
Or use your account on Blog

Error message here!

Hide Error message here!

Forgot your password?

Or register your new account on Blog

Error message here!

Error message here!

Hide Error message here!

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Error message here!

Back to log-in

Close