After ‘emotional and tiring’ six games, Alex Lyon reflects on opportunity with Panthers
Alex Lyon took a moment Saturday to process his emotions.
He had just spent the past week and a half as the Florida Panthers’ starting goaltender, a role thrust upon the journeyman with Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight sidelined by injuries during one of the team’s key stretches as they try to remain relevant in the Stanley Cup Playoff race.
He had his share of highs and lows during the six-game run, during which the Panthers went 3-2-1 and Lyon played both ends of two separate sets of back-to-backs.
“Emotional and tiring,” Lyon said to sum up the 10-day stretch.
If Saturday was Alex Lyon’s last game playing for the Panthers this season, it was certainly one to remember.
While most of the talk surrounding Florida’s 4-3, come-from-behind overtime victory against the Boston Bruins will focus on Aleksander Barkov’s game-tying goal with less than three seconds left and Sam Reinhart’s game-winner 17 seconds into overtime, it was Lyon’s heroics in net that kept the game in reach.
He saved 38 of 41 shots he faced and stopped 19 of the 20 high-danger shots that came his way. It was his best performance of the six games.
But beyond the stats, beyond the saves and goals allowed, beyond the wins and losses and points, Lyon had a personal revelation during the two weeks that he spent in net.
“I’m appreciative to the organization for sticking with me,” Lyon said. “They didn’t have to after a couple tough outings on the road. That’s always been an issue with me. I’ve never felt I’ve not had the talent to play here. There’s just always been that hurdle mentally. I feel I came closer to bridging that gap these last six games. For my personal growth, it was awesome.”
Lyon’s career to this point has been all about adapting and preparing.
The 30-year-old has spent the bulk of his career in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s minor-league affiliate. He had just 24 games of NHL experience across five NHL seasons prior to filling in for Bobrovsky two minutes and one second into the Panthers’ game against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 19 and playing every minute in net for the Panthers from that point on heading into the All-Star Break.
The statistics weren’t always pretty. He finished those six games with a collective .887 save percentage and a 3.89 goals allowed average, marks that are inflated by him allowing 12 goals on 74 shots in back-to-back losses to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins on the road. However, his resiliency and desire to make the most of the opportunity in front of him never wavered.
“He’s a battler,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “You love that about him. The players feed off that. We really appreciate what he’s been able to do. I mean, it hasn’t been easy for him. He comes in at our most difficult time. We’re short in the tank and he’s brought some energy and some battle to our game.”
Whether he gets another run in net for the Panthers this season is unclear but unlikely.
Maurice said Saturday he is hopeful Knight and Bobrovsky will be back when the team resumes its schedule on Feb. . 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That would signal the end of Lyon’s time on the Panthers’ active roster.
Lyon’s prepared for that should the time come. He understands the business side of the sport.
And he will be ready to go for his next opportunity.
“It’s rewarding,” Lyon said. “Moments like this are key.”