Bobrovsky Remains Good Soldier; Still Own Worst Critic
It must have been an extremely long summer for Philadelphia Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
He had experienced just about everything during a rookie season in which he dazzled early on, experienced a drop off in play, then a banishment to the press box for a spell during the playoffs.
Then “Bob” had to wonder what his future with the team would be once fellow-Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was acquired to handle the starting duties between the pipes in Philadelphia.
There was even a rumor via Philadelphia Daily News beat writer Frank Seravalli that GM Paul Holmgren had shopped Bobrovsky’s services less than two weeks after Bryzgalov was brought to town. With the club doing it’s usual limbo under the upper salary cap limit, Bobrovsky’s $1.75 million hit seemed almost certain to be moved.
By the time training camp commenced, Bob was still property of the Flyers. He played extremely well during exhibition games, finishing the preseason with a 2-0 record, a miniscule 0.40 goals-against average, and a mind-bending .984 save percentage – even posting his first-ever shutout in any NHL game.
Those numbers not only bettered those of Bryzgalov, they were tops for any goalie who saw more than 100 minutes of exhibition play.
When all was said and done, however, the 23-year-old was still on the Flyers’ roster when the season began. Bobrovsky had remained the good soldier throughout, never once complaining about his new role.
Thursday night Bobrovsky got his fourth start of the young season, this one against the Atlantic Division rival New Jersey Devils.
Due to the sloppy play in front of him and the penchant for unforced turnovers by his defense in their own zone, the Flyers fell 4-3 in the club’s first shootout of the year. The shots ended up 39-23 in favor of the visitors, including a ridiculous 21-9 in a horrible second period for the team.
To a man, the Flyers knew he deserved a better fate.
“He (Bobrovsky) held the fort for the most part and had to bail us out on more than one occasion,” said center Danny Briere after the game. ”We owe him a lot for the point we are about to get.”
Two of the goals were the direct result of giveaways by his defensemen – one by Andreas Lilja in the second period, and the other by Matt Carle in the third – but the native of Novokuznetsk, Russia is a perfectionist, and his own worst critic.
“All of the goals were probably stoppable, except for maybe the second one, so really any of them,” Bobrovsky said when asked if there were any in particular that he would like to have back.
Carle’s turnover led to the game-tying goal with just six minutes left in regulation, and the Flyers clinging to a 3-2 lead. Carle originally made a nice play, intercepting a Patrik Elias pass towards the slot, but then attempted an outlet pass that went right back onto the stick of Elias. He sent the puck past Carle and to David Clarkson right in front of Bobrovsky, and the Devils right winger was able to slip the puck past the startled Flyers’ netminder.
“That pass I made was the difference there, and I feel like I let the team down personally by making that play,” Carle said after the loss. “It’s something I have to be smarter about. Maybe carry the puck more, not (attempt a pass) up the middle like that.”
“Bob played a heck of a game,” Carle continued. ”It’s hard to know that you had a lead, and then four or five minutes you make a play like that. It’s tough.”
Included in his 36 saves were gems on Zach Parise from the slot in the first, and stoning Ilya Kovalchuk on a second period breakaway.
Bobrovsky has played well in the regular season, even though his overall numbers are still a bit askew in the aftermath of the crazy 9-8 goal-fest last week against the Winnipeg Jets. That night he did not get a decision, but was yanked after yielding five goals on just 15 shots. He owns a 2-0-1 record, with a 3.44 goals-against average, and .883 save percentage.
It was good to see Bobrovsky bounce back with such a strong effort in his first game since the subpar performance against the Jets, but he was still not pleased. “Of course today was a little bit better, but we still came up short, so there’s not too much to get happy about.”
The Flyers goaltending has had its ups-and-downs thus far during the early part of the campaign, but nothing like the inconsistency in previous years. Aside from the Winnipeg fiasco, the Flyers crease has been pretty air tight.
The real problem for the team has been missed coverage assignments and unforced turnovers in the defensive zone.
“There are a lot of things that I think we could do better in front of him to prevent certain things’” head coach Peter Laviolette said of ”Bob” in understated fashion in his post-game press conference last night.
Bobrovsky will continue to back up Bryzgalov, being the good soldier all the while. The good tovarich even, if you will.