Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Players Most Affected by the Goaltending Curse in Philly
Goaltending issues have become as synonymous with the city of Philadelphia in recent years as cheesesteaks and Rocky Balboa. For years, it's seemed like one incredibly talented Flyers team after another has failed to capture Lord Stanley's cup as a result of sub-par or, at times, atrocious outings between the pipes.
The glory days of Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall patrolling the crease are a distant memory and questions seem to arise year, after year, after year as to who will finally be able to stabilize the Flyers' goaltending situation.
It hasn't happened yet. So here's a look at five players in recent history who have suffered the most from the goaltending curse in Philadelphia.
After spending all of last season with the Adirondack Phantoms, Michael Leighton signed a one-year pact earlier this summer to remain with the Flyers organization. H is slated to be Ilya Bryzgalov's back up whenever the NHL is able to resume play.
This will be Leighton's third stint in Philadelphia and his history with the organization has been erratic at best.
A revelation during the 2009-10 season after injuries sidelined Brian Boucher and Ray Emery, Leighton produced solid numbers as the team's starter posting a 16-5-2 record to go along with a 2.48 goals-against average and .920 save percentage to close out the regular season.
That stellar play seemed to carry over into the postseason. After Boucher returned only to suffer another injury, it was Leighton who backstopped the Flyers into the history books as Philly erased a 3-0 series deficit to the Boston Bruins en route to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals that season and that's where it all came apart for Leighton. He was pulled from Game One and Game Five (both Chicago Blackhawks victories) and finished the finals with a goals-against average just under four to go along with a pedestrian .876 save percentage.
Despite his struggles in the Stanley Cup Finals, Leighton re-signed with the Flyers the following summer only to miss the season's first two months because of back surgery. He played in one game in late December, but the solid play of Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky during his absence left Leighton without a job.
The current lockout has jeopardized Leighton's third stint with the Orange and Black but if history is any indication, if the two are allowed to reunite on the ice, it will certainly be eventful.
Plagued with drama throughout his NHL career, it was actually elements out of Emery's control that curtailed his career in Philadelphia.
After signing a one-year agreement with the Flyers in June 2009, Emery began his Flyers career by blanking the Carolina Hurricanes in a 2-0 shutout in his first start. In fact, Emery's numbers as a whole were solid (16-11-1 record, 2.62 goals-against average, .905 save percentage) until injuries struck.
Placed on injured reserve in early December for surgery to a torn muscle in his abdomen, Emery's woes were just beginning. In March 2010, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced his netminder would miss the entire season when it was discovered Emery had avascular necrosis.
He has since been able to battle back for brief stints with both the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, but it's unlikely he'll ever regain his role as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Like Emery, Jeff Hackett's career with the Flyers, and ultimately in the NHL, ended as a result of a bizarre injury.
Signed as a free agent in the summer of 2003, Hackett kick started his Flyers career with a pair of shutouts and posted a 9-2-6 overall mark in his first 17 games in Philadelphia. But, as has been the case with most Flyers goaltenders, it was too good to be true.
Hackett dropped six straight decisions in December and after back-to-back losses in January, the Flyers' starting goaltender was sidelined with vertigo. Hackett attempted a comeback with the Philadelphia Phantoms but after one game, opted for retirement.
At 36 years old, Hackett obviously wasn't the long-term solution in goal for the Flyers but clearly any player whose career has been cut short as a result of vertigo was affected by some sort of Philly goaltending curse.
The poster child of enigmatic Flyers goaltenders over the last twenty years, Roman Cechmanek's play in Philadelphia was as erratic as the heart beats of the fans forced to watch him.
In his first full season with the Flyers, Cechmanek was a stud in the regular season. He snatched the starting job away from Brian Boucher, made the All-Star game and finished second in the voting for the Vezina Trophy after posting a 35-15-6 record coupled with a 2.01 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
But then the playoffs arrived. The pressure was clearly too much for the Czech import as he registered a goals-against average over three and a sub-.900 save percentage as the Flyers were ousted in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres. Capping that series was an embarrassing 8-0 loss in which Cechmanek allowed five goals before being pulled.
The enigma didn't end there, though. Cechmanek remained one of the NHL's best regular season goaltenders through the next two seasons, but continued to falter in the playoffs.
In 2002, he played well (1.85 goals-against average, .936 save percentage), but publicly blasted his teammates following their first round playoff departure. Then, in 2003, Cechmanek's erratic behavior returned to the frozen surface where he allowed soft goals in four of Philadelphia's six second round games against Ottawa before being ousted by the Senators.
Maybe it was one too many saves with the head.
Clearly there's a curse on Flyer goaltenders when a Hall of Fame netminder struggles in Philadelphia.
During the summer of 1998, John Vanbiesbrouck inked a two-year deal with the Flyers and was genuinely sensational in his first season in Philly. Vanbiesbrouck posted a career best 2.18 goals-against average in a career-high 62 appearances.
But, like so many Flyers netminders before and after him, Vanbiesbrouck struggled in the playoffs. Philadelphia was eliminated in the first round in six games at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While Vanbiesbrouck wasn't solely to blame, he was guilty of soft goals at inopportune times that cost Philly games.
His inconsistent play carried into the following season and as a result, Vanbiesbrouck lost his starting job to then-rookie Brian Boucher.
Inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, even Vanbiesbrouck wasn't immune to the goaltending curse that has taken over Philadelphia.