Justin Goldman runs the site The Goalie Guild and is a goalie scout. You can also follow him on Twitter. He has written about goalies on a number of different sites over the last three years and has been working on different projects with Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley and former NHL goalie Steve Shields. He has a great skill for observing and critiquing goaltenders. Today, he shares great insights on Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and more .
Is a playoff goaltending tandem of Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky strong enough to win the Stanley Cup? If the playoffs started today, who would be the Flyers’ starting goaltender?
When it comes to winning the Stanley Cup, you don’t necessarily need the most talented tandem, you need a confident and rested tandem. In that regard, I really like Boucher and Bobrovsky as a playoff duo. As of today, Bobrovsky has only played 34 games and Boucher has only played 20. If that split continues, they will both be very well-rested when the playoffs roll around, and that’s a huge advantage over teams like Montreal, the Rangers, Bruins and Sabres. Those teams all have full-blown starting goalies that have carried a heavy workload and could suffer from energy drain down the stretch. In that sense, more energy allows a goalie to be more focused and that can easily trump skill in the playoffs.
If I had to choose a starting goalie right now, I would definitely go with Boucher. The wily veteran deserves the opportunity to be the starter in the playoffs and his experience and veteran leadership would be a calming influence for the Flyers. Bobrovsky also makes a great backup to come off the bench and provide a spark if Boucher struggles. Only if Boucher really struggles and loses confidence late in the season and Bobrovsky really shines and has extremely high confidence would I flip-flop my decision.
Is Tomas Vokoun the last piece of the puzzle in Philadelphia?
I don’t think goaltending is necessarily a missing piece of the puzzle in Philly, but he would definitely improve the goaltending as a whole. But to be honest, the Flyers are just as capable of winning in the playoffs with their current tandem than if they traded for Vokoun. Again, the Flyers have an advantage by having two rested and capable goaltenders. It’s true that Vokoun would be an upgrade over Bobrovsky or Boucher, but I don’t think they need to address goaltending this season. I would instill confidence, keep things positive and reward the goalies the Flyers have now, then assess the situation moving forward when the season is over.
Should fans worry about any of the following regarding Bobrovsky: his occasionally shaky play of late, his lack of postseason experience, his workload?
I would say fans should be “mildly concerned” with Bobrovsky’s occasionally shaky play, but not worried. The key, from the fan’s perspective, is to be realistic with his potential and abilities down the stretch. Take a step back and look at his situation as a whole. This is his first season in North America, he had no AHL or minor-league experience, he had to adjust from the KHL to NHL essentially overnight and he’s not a big goalie. The more teams play against him, the more they will stress for shooters to aim for the upper corners, so the scouts work against him as the season rolls along. All things considered, even his recent play hasn’t been something fans should be worried about. He has had a fantastic rookie season and his work ethic is a big reason why there’s no reason to worry that much.
One thing you always want to see from Bobrovsky (or any goalie) is an ability to bounce back from bad outings. When he was pulled on Feb. 1 against Tampa Bay, he came right back in the next game and stopped 26 of 28 shots in a 3-2 win over Nashville. That’s solid proof he has the mental toughness and work ethic needed to excel down the stretch, maybe even in the playoffs, despite his lack of experience. Workload, in my opinion, is a non-issue because he’s young, has a ton of energy and has only played 34 games.
From a technical perspective, what stands out about Bobrovsky? Boucher?
What stands out about Bobrovsky’s game is his extremely quick feet, his work ethic and his confidence for having very little NHL experience. I knew he had good raw skills heading into the season, but never expected this kind of success and mental toughness. He also seems to have a high absorption rate when it comes to learning different elements of the position at the NHL level.
What stands out about Boucher is nothing technically speaking, but his ability to brush off any adversity and play his game in a relaxed and composed manner. He’s not one of the more talented goalies in the NHL, but he reads plays very well and is a steady competitor, consistent and poised goaltender. This is why Boucher makes such a terrific mentor for Bobrovsky, who can absorb so much of being an NHL goalie on a day-to-day basis by watching him. That is one element that makes Boucher extremely valuable for a team like the Flyers. It really is one of the nicer tandems in the NHL. Maybe not one of the most talented, but certainly one of the most complimentary.
Looking beyond this season, what should Philly fans expect from the goaltending prospects? Who has risen up or fallen down the charts?
Overall, I think the two quality long-term prospects are still Nicola Riopel and Joacim Eriksson. Eriksson is a tremendous Swedish prospect with elite upside and catches with the right hand. He’s currently playing in the Swedish Elite League and improving his skills on a monthly basis. Riopel has bounced around a bit this year, but is gaining valuable experience as a rookie in the minor leagues. I don’t think Riopel has the same kind of upside as Eriksson, but he does have starter upside.
If your readers want quality insight from us on a monthly basis about Flyers goalie prospects, check out our NHL Goalie Depth Charts. We not only list and update every goalie signed and drafted by the organization, but we also include what are called Alteration Marks. This gives you an idea of how they have risen or fallen down the charts each month.