Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky’s mission to silence his critics got off to a good start in game 1 of the Flyers’ first round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres. If not for the brilliance of the guy on the other end, United States Olympic hero Ryan Miller, Bobrovsky may in fact have been the story of the game. The rookie was solid in his first playoff start, shutting out the Sabres for just over 45 minutes and, in the end, allowing one goal on 25 shots in a disappointing defeat.
The Flyers were able to dictate the play for most of the game, the Sabres seemingly content to sit back and counterpunch. Bobrovsky was not called upon to make many challenging saves (neither was Miller for that matter) but when he was challenged he was up to it. His positioning was solid, his reflexes were good, and he showed a remarkable ability to tune out the raucous crowd and focus on what he had to do.
The play on which Bobrovsky was beaten consisted of two failures. The first failure was that the defensive pairing of Matt Carle and Danny Syvret (my worst nightmare come alive), who allowed Buffalo grinder Patrick Kaleta to wrestle through them and into the low slot where he was able to capitalize on the second failure.
The second failure was something that seems to have plagued Flyers’ goaltenders since the days of Marty Biron: rebound control. Sabres’ rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani’s point drive deflected off the left foot of Bobrovsky and directly onto the stick of Kaleta as he wrestled through the attempted check of Syvret. I’ll tell you every time how difficult it is to control a rebound off of the pad, but especially in the playoffs a goaltender can’t let a puck bounce back into the slot after it hits him. These two failures led to the only chink in the Flyers’ defensive armor.
Overall, however, the signs from Bobrovsky were all positive. After the frightening performance in the regular season finale during which he was pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots, he showed remarkable poise and positioning in his first career playoff game. The signs are encouraging…although knowing our luck the team will play just as well in game 2 while Bobrovsky will fall apart. Welcome to Negadelphia.