Feb 24, 2011, 11:16 AM EDT
It’s easy to overlook the value of an experienced, stable backup like Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Boucher. Boucher won 15 games already this season and showed that he could carry a team in the postseason last year, as he helped the Flyers intermittently when Michael Leighton went down with an injury (even though he eventually would pass the torch after his own ailment).
The Flyers might be glad that they developed so much trust for the 34-year-old veteran, because CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio writes that Boucher has the inside track over impressive rookie Sergei Bobrovsky for the No. 1 job come playoff time.
Panaccio points out that Boucher holds one glaring advantage over Bobrovsky when it comes to puck handling.
While it’s no guarantee that a weak puck handling goalie will ever make significant improvement, it’s a skill that netminders develop over time. Being that Bobrovsky made a name for himself unexpectedly soon during what’s been mostly a smash hit rookie season, he didn’t have the time to improve his decision making with the puck before he advanced to the NHL level. He rarely (if ever) left the net in Russia, creating a glaring weakness – especially when you consider the fact that he speaks limited English.
Bobrovsky speaks very little English and it makes it harder to communicate with his defense. That will improve over time.
Yet unless his puck-handling skills improve against quick teams, the Flyers are going to struggle on the breakout.
“It’s going to make it hard for us to make a good first pass,” Timonen said. “If you look at the goalies who are good at stopping pucks, it helps the defense a lot. More than you think.
“There are so many teams coming with a lot of speed and if the puck goes around, they can create a forecheck and turnovers and everything. If you stop the puck behind the net, you break out right away. It’s a simple thing but it makes a huge difference.”
Elite puck handling skills helped well-known Flyers standout Ron Hextall and future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in ways that stat guys are still trying to grasp. It’s a tough thing to quantify, but it’s hard to deny the impact it had on many New Jersey Devils teams in particular.
Could Bobrovsky’s struggles with the puck on his goalie stick cost him the starting job when every little mistake his magnified in the heat of playoff play? We’ll just have to wait and see, but Boucher obviously has that ace up his sleeve.
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