Leave it to a Yale-educated athlete like Detroit Red Wings goalie Alex Lyon to come up with a perfectly esoteric description of life as a professional goaltender.
“It’s just a big puzzle,” Lyon said. “When the entire puzzle comes together, that’s when it goes well. It’s like a little egg on a window sill. It can go one way or the other at any time. You’re just trying to maintain that balance in your life and in your game. I guess I kind of see it as everything is connected to everything.”
Lyon’s egg is well balanced these days as he continues to earn playing time as one of one of the Detroit Red Wings’ three goalies. Given Ville Husso’s ugly goals-against average (3.65) and save percentage (.886) and Lyon’s four consecutive wins, it’s fair to wonder whether Lyon is in line for a promotion. All we know for sure is Lyon will start Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
After playing 44 games, for four different NHL teams, over a seven-year period, Lyon clearly doesn’t sweat labels or status. For him, it’s just keeping his egg from falling off the window sill. It’s one day at a time in the Red Wings’ three-person goalie rotation that also includes James Reimer and Husso.
Former Flyer and @LVPhantoms netminder Alex Lyon has 4 straight wins for Detroit. He has registered a .959 Save Percentage during this span.
— Jamey Baskow (@JameyBaskow) December 6, 2023
“It’s just the name of the game,” Lyon said. “It’s how I’ve staked my real estate in hockey. Being patient and earning trust from coaches is a difficult thing. You gotta be super patient and sometimes it doesn’t go well. It’s gone well here so far but I’ve been in situations where it didn’t go as well and that’s tough. Just gotta continue to maintain the same approach. We got four and a half more months of being in the tunnel. That’s how I view it.”
The way the Red Wings view it is that Lyon has given up five goals in his past four starts. He has played confidently in all situations. Started as the team’s No. 3 goalie. He wasn’t even dressing early in the season. Now he is challenging to be No. 1, even if it is not permanent.
“I think there’s a very healthy line of you have to compete and push each other, while also maintaining support for each other, because at the end of the day when one person is succeeding it helps the others succeed,” Lyon said. “We’ve all been through it. It’s just very difficult when things aren’t going that well. So we’re out here to support each other, push each other and at the end of the day, the three of us are competing against ourselves. You’re just competing against you’re own individual person and just trying to be better than you were the day before. ”
That’s the way Lyon feels he has to look at it. He hasn’t played the majority of games anywhere since playing 47 for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in his first pro season of 2016-17.
“During COVID I was on the taxi squad. I played five games all year,” Lyon said. “That really impacted my career negatively. I felt like I was on track to move into the NHL. I felt like I was becoming good enough and then I played five games the entire season. That was very difficult emotionally and obviously career-wise. It derailed me quite a bit. It’s taken me a long time to fight back to this point. ”
Trying to Fit In
Lyon’s strategy is simply to keep grinding, although he admits it’s hard when you are not playing.
“You always feel like an outsider. You do,” he said. “I think everybody would tell you that, whether it’s me, or whether it’s the guy who’s making $10 million. If you’re injured, or something like that and you don’t feel like you’re contributing to team, it’s very difficult. Again that’s a learned skill that you acquire over time. I still don’t handle it well but I’ve handled it more poorly in the past. I continue to get better at that.”
He doesn’t have to worry about that right now because he has been contributing wins and impressive performances.
His backup plan has always been to return to Yale. He believes he’s five credits short of a degree. He feels the need to learn more about balancing his egg.
“I think that I will (graduate),” Lyon said. “My dad is a Yale guy as well. I have to. It actually weighs on me. When I signed coming out of school it was like ‘I don’t know how long this is gonna last.’ Eight years later, I’m still playing and I’ve managed to climb my way and scratch my way back up. It’s crazy. Right when you think you’ve made it, there’s always something that humbles you. I try to keep that in perspective. Been on a pretty good little run here. It’s not going to be easy tomorrow. I’m not gonna have any easy games going forward.”