I looked at my calendar today and did a double-take at what I didn’t see. March, on my calendar, wasn’t labeled “Flyers Goalie Controversy Month”. I was shocked. How could this be?
The time in the stretch run of the NHL season where the historical goaltending woes of the Flyers rear its ugly head. Since the start of the month, the goaltender play which had been relatively solid throughout the season has started to fall apart. In the month, the Bobrovsky/Boucher tandem (as that’s the order it seems Coach Laviolette wants it to be) has combined for a .889 SV%, which just isn’t going to get it done.
The topic of debate has now become which goaltender the coach will choose to be the starter in the playoffs. I maintain that this choice will never be made.
Laviolette seems to want Bobrovsky to take the job but the young Russian just doesn’t seem inclined to do so, being seemingly unable to string together two good performances. It is for this reason and my belief that the coach doesn’t want to commit to Boucher full-time that I think we will see the same alternating of starters in the playoffs that we’ve been seeing in the regular season. However, I’ll humor those of you who insist on making a decision from your chairs out there in the ‘burbs while the guy who is actually paid to make such decisions avoids the question.
The argument for Bobrovsky is that he is younger, has a higher ceiling, and has more raw physical talent than his older counterpart. That and the Flyers have had rookie goalies play well for them in their first playoff action in the past (see Hextall in ’87, Boucher in 2000).
The argument for Boucher on the other hand is that he’s experienced, is the known commodity, and is mentally strong and able to shake off bad goals. At the same time the arguments against each guy are there too. Boucher is a career backup without game breaking ability while Bobrovsky is a rookie who has never faced this kind of pressure before. Yeah, good luck deciding between those two sterling options. I don’t envy the coach.
This is the time of year when it becomes difficult to predict what goalie we’ll see in which game from here on out. So much depends on how the goalies play from game to game and the choice can’t be made solely upon matchups and statistics. However I shall take the dive. Look to see:
• Boucher Saturday on the Island
• Bobrovsky at the WFC against Boston on Sunday, because it’s a back-to-back
• Bobrovsky vs. Pittsburgh in the rematch on Tuesday
• Bobrovsky at home against Atlanta on Thursday
Of course any or all of these can change. If Bobrovsky falters against Pittsburgh (I’m writing this before the game) and Boucher plays well against NYI we could very well see Boucher back in net in the Pittsburgh rematch.
The goaltending for the Flyers’ farm team up in Adirondack is quite a different story. Former Flyers’ savior Michael Leighton has attempted to adopt the same messiah role in the AHL. In his 7 starts since the beginning of March, Leighton has compiled a .920 SV% (including his 32nd career AHL shutout) lifting his SV% on the season to .921 on a team with the second-lowest point total in the league. Pretty impressive stuff.
For those of you clamoring to have him back in the organization’s NHL crease…don’t be encouraged. Keep in mind that this is in fact that AHL and the whole re-entry waiver thing…just stop, he’s not coming back this year. What you see is what you get. Let’s hope it holds up.