Bobrovsky or Boucher in Flyers’ net for game three?

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove NHL / Philadelphia Flyers Correspondent

After game one of the first round series with the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers’ rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky appeared to have answered the questions that most in the NHL media had raised regarding how he would handle the intense pressure of his first postseason.

The Toronto Sun even ran a story entitled “Bobrovsky unnerved already?”, because the goalie had said – through an interpreter, mind you – that he was nervous.

The 22-years-old made 24 saves on 25 Buffalo shots, yielding only a third period Patrick Kaleta goal in a 1-0 loss.  There was no shame in being outdueled by Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.  One of the elite netminders in the NHL, Miller stopped all 35 Flyers’ shots sent his direction.

Even in defeat, it seemed as though Bobrovsky had answered his critics with an excalamation point.

But in game two on Saturday, it was quite a different story.

After giving up a third goal to the Sabres after just 12:30 of play, Bobrovsky was lifted in favor of backup Brian Boucher.

There were some bad bounces there for Bob (Bobrovsky) in the first period,” Danny Briere said after the game.  “I don’t think any of the goals you can really fault him.  They were tough saves, a five-on-three, a few power plays.  We put him in a tough position.”

The first two goals were both scored via the power play by Tomas Vanek, and the third was on a three-on-one rush in which Andrej Sekera picked the top shelf.  Bobrovsky appeared to go down into the butterfly to cover everything low too early on the Sekera goal, something he has had problems with from time to time the entire season.

Boucher did an excellent job of settling his teammates down, making 20 saves on 21 shots the rest of the way as Philadelphia rallied for a 5-4 victory.

It takes a special kind of person to come in while we’re down 3-2, in front of 20,000 fans, during a big game,” defenseman Sean O’Donnell offered Saturday.  “I’m not going to say a must win, but it was a big game.  He kind of settled things down for us and I think that was one of the reasons why we played with a little more composure maybe in the last 45 or 50 minutes.  You know, he was big in the net and he made some good saves.  He did a real good job in there.”

Boucher has been in this situation many times during his career, especially in the two seasons that he has been back with the Flyers.

Last year, the Philadelphia goaltending ranks experienced a ridiculous amount of injury woes, even into the playoffs.  Boucher said it’s important to always be ready.

It’s not the most ideal situation, but as a guy that has been a backup for a while it’s something that you need to get used to,” the 34-year-old Rhode Island-native said after Saturday’s game.  “It’s something that happens fairly often so you have to prepare like you’re going to play and if you don’t play, you don’t play.  And if you do, then you’re ready to go.”

Boucher has had to be prepared in that way for much of his career, serving as backup for much of his 11 NHL seasons.

So who will be in the Flyers’ crease to start game three tonight in Buffalo?

The more the Philadelphia media attempts to wrestle an answer from the Flyers’ bench boss, the answer remains the same.

I don’t talk about goaltenders,” snapped head coach Peter Laviolette when asked during his post-game press conference Saturday.

I think that Brian (Boucher) has had so many times where he has come in and bailed us out,” beamed the coach about his backup.  ”Like I said, he’s a veteran goaltender that has a calmness about him.”

And he definitely had a calming affect on the Flyers after a shaky start.  A loss would have meant an 0-2 game deficit heading to Buffalo, something no one wearing Orange-and-Black wanted to see.

Laviolette did make one thing crystal clear regarding his rookie netminder, and that is that the team still believes in him.

He (Bobrovsky) has been terrific for us all year,” Laviolette said.  “He was very good in game one.  Tonight (Saturday) seemed to have more charge to it so it is hard for me to say but let me just reiterate, we have a lot of confidence in ‘Bob’.  He always answers the bell.”

Does Laviolette opt for the calm, steadiness of Boucher, or the often show-stealing flash of Bobrovsky?

Whichever backstop is between the pipes tonight at HSBC Arena in Buffalo remains a mystery, except to the coaching staff and perhaps the players themselves.

One thing is for certain - this has gotten to be a generational inquiry when it comes to Philadelphia goaltenders, especially come playoff time.

And don’t bet against the name of Michael Leighton coming up at some point in time.

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If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle