Tapping the Pipes: Rd. 1, Game 2

Would the real Sergei Bobrovsky please stand up? After an impressive game 1 against the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers’ enigmatic rookie goaltender turned out one of his “down” performances in game 2. Bobrovsky was pulled roughly 12 minutes into the game after allowing 3 goals on 7 shots to begin a wild and crazy first period of action. The tight defensive system shown in game 1 completely disappeared as the Flyers scrambled at times in their own zone and allowed Buffalo to erase two one-goal leads in the first 10 minutes of the game

The first Buffalo goal came with the Sabres on a powerplay with Kimmo Timonen in the box for a phantom hooking call. Scott Hartnell had just exited the box after an ill-advised hooking penalty, ending the Sabres’ 5-on-3 powerplay, and came hustling back into the play in an attempt to clear the zone. Unfortunately the Sabres were able to keep it in and scored after Braydon Coburn inexplicably threw the puck right onto the stick of Sabres’ defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani who fed Thomas Vanek for the goal.

The play was an utter defensive breakdown with Coburn’s horrible giveaway, Hartnell losing his stick, and Andre Meszaros and Blair Betts running into each other. Bobrovsky was left out to dry on the play and it was all over after he overcommitted to Gragnani, taking himself completely out of the net, and found himself unable to scramble in before Vanek got his shot off. I wouldn’t blame Bobrovsky for the goal, however he didn’t do himself any favors by overcommitting to the Buffalo defenseman.

The second goal was another very ugly play with the Flyers’ defense being ineffectual in its attempts to clear the crease (please come back now, Pronger). Tim Connolly fed Drew Stafford down low and Stafford and Vanek were able to hack at the puck until Bobrovsky lost the post and it squeezed in past him. Timonen slid out of the play to block a shot and the remaining defenseman (Coburn) was unable to push Vanek away from the puck before he hacked it in. This goal was another example of defensive failure on the part of the Flyers, however I also place blame on Bobrovsky. He has to hold the post there with two guys pushing at the puck. If the puck somehow bounces past you then, okay, at least you were in position. However, Bobrovsky failed to hold his balance at the post and lost containment, allowing Vanek to get his second goal of the period.

On Buffalo’s third goal, a bad pinch by Sean O’Donnell following a Flyers’ powerplay led to a 3-on-1 with only Matt Carle back to defend. Andrej Sekera was able to look down at the puck and then snap a shot over Bobrovsky’s glove and into the net. It may have been a 3-on-1, but there’s no getting past it: this was a terrible goal. On an odd-man rush it is the goalie’s job to take the puck carrier and let the defenseman take away the passing lanes. Bobrovsky did not do this. The young goaltender sunk back into the net and stayed too low to the ice, allowing Sekera to pick a corner over the glove. This proved to be the end of his night and the Brian Boucher era began yet again.

Boucher was tested almost immediately, having to make a sprawling pad-stack stop on a shot from the bottom of the circle barely two minutes after he took the net. Boucher was very solid for the rest of the game and seemed to calm down the Flyers’ players who outscored the Sabres 3-1 after that point. After stopping 20 of the 21 shots he saw to end the game and get the win, Boucher has opened the door for yet another goalie controversy in Philadelphia.

The question now is: who will start game 3? In my eyes it has to be Brian Boucher. If he had played badly or had been average in relief of Bobrovsky then I would say to go back to the Russian, but Boucher was so good and the Flyers played so well in front of him that I think he needs to start. I wanted him to be the playoff starter in the first place, so there you go. The argument against this is that Boucher is better than Bobrovsky when he has to enter a game-in-progress and that the team shouldn’t mess with Bobrovsky’s confidence, but I say that we are past that point. The goaltender who is playing better needs to be between the pipes, plain and simple. Boucher is the solid, veteran presence and this is the playoffs. This is crunch time. It’s Boosh time.