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Sergei Bobrovsky is the odds-on Game 4 starter for Philly; Can the Flyers come back again?

May 5, 2011, 8:56 PM EDT

Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky AP

Despite my bigger picture positivity about the team’s philosophies toward goaltending, there’s little doubt that the Philadelphia Flyers have mishandled their situation in the 2011 playoffs.

If you ask me, the biggest mistake was that the team didn’t use the same wait-and-see approach with Sergei Bobrovsky as they did with Brian Boucher. I understand that Boucher is the more experienced goalie, but the man named “Bob” was a huge reason why this team won the Atlantic Division title in 2010-11.

Bobrovsky earned an nice 28-13-8 record with a slightly above average 91.5 save percentage and 2.59 GAA this season. He was clearly the No. 1 in Philly, earning 20 more appearances than Boucher.

Sure, Bobrovsky had an awful game-and-a-half to start the team’s first round series in the Buffalo Sabres, but Boucher was the goat in two out of three games against the Bruins in Round 2. Sarah Baicker of CSN Philly reports that Bobrovsky is likely to get the start in Game 4, but the obvious question is whether it will be too little, too late.

Let’s take a quick look at the similarities and differences between Philly’s situation in these consecutive 3-0 deficits.

What’s similar

  • Boucher has been weak-to-awful against Boston once again. Boucher lost all three games in this year’s series, didn’t make it through two of those contests and allowed 12 goals overall. He was a bit better last year, going 2-3, although one of his wins was in relief in that Game 7 comeback. He allowed 15 goals in those four full starts, so maybe the Bruins just have his number.
  • Bobrovsky = Michael Leighton? Last time around, Boucher was injured and gave way for Leighton, a relative unknown who helped spur a Flyers comeback. Could Bob have a little more luck against Boston? It’s possible, although he’s probably a more “known entity” than Leighton was in some ways.

How this year is different.

  • Chris Pronger isn’t healthy. If you ask me, a great case could be made for Pronger to be a three-time Conn Smythe winner, even in two losing efforts. He willed the Edmonton Oilers to a full seven-game series against the Carolina Hurricanes with Jussi Markkanen behind him. He was a big reason the Anaheim Ducks won a Cup and was a huge difference maker last year, too. Simply put, a near-100 percent Pronger can make a weak goalie look good. That happened last year, but injuries are keeping him from being a security blanket for Philly this time.
  • The Flyers are a mess. The Pronger point probably bleeds into this one, but the Flyers don’t have the same mojo. Last year, they went into the playoffs on a hot streak. This year, they backed in. That indicates that, despite their deep reserve of talent, Philly just isn’t playing their best hockey right now.
  • Two blowouts already. The Bruins did built a 3-0 lead in ’10, but much like Vancouver’s 3-0 lead against Chicago this year, it was a bit misleading. Those games were mostly close, a point best exemplified by Marc Savard‘s emotional Game 1 overtime winner.

Conversely, this year’s series includes two blowouts (7-3 in Game 1; 5-1 in Game 3) and one overtime thriller. That’s not a great sign for a comeback, although the diversity-proven Flyers probably won’t care.

  • This is probably a better Bruins team. Tuukka Rask did a great job last season, but Tim Thomas simply instills more confidence. This year’s roster seems a little bigger, tougher and deeper than the 2010 edition. The fact that they won the Northeast Division this time around strengthens that suspicion.

***

The Flyers are a talented and tough team, so you can’t count them out of this altogether. There are a few reasons for hope, but the cons outweigh the pros this year. Some think that Bobrovsky has a lot of weight on his shoulders, yet in a way, he has nothing to lose.

He didn’t dig this hole, but could he help them out if it? Tell us what you think in the comments.

  1. ml3939 - May 5, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    I think the Flyers are a more talented team this year than last, at least on paper. Last year the were basically skating 4 defensemen, Giroux was just coming into his own and JVR was mostly riding the pine. This year even without Pronger they have 5 reliable defensemen including O’Donnell. Giroux is now a star and JVR has become one overnight.

    However, there are many more negatives this year than last. Last year the goaltending really wasn’t an issue until the finals. Richards was a stud last year. This year he is an overpaid checking line center. I don’t care that he had 10 shots in game 2, since the all star break he has been a horrid offensive player. He misses the net more often than getting a shot on goal and makes poor passes almost all of the time. He had one nice pass in the playoffs that was really the result of a nice pass by Versteeg first. Versteeg is more of an enigma than Zherdev at this point. Some games he is solid, others he is awful and makes poor decisions with the puck. He plays like he is the only one on the ice at times. And finally, Matt Carle has been terrible. I included him in the reliable defenseman category above but that only really applies when Pronger or Meszaros are carrying him. He is minus 8 in the playoffs. It seems like 90% of the time when there is a defensive breakdown on the ice, Carle is well out of position or tripping over his own feet. He blows. Unfortunately the bad play seems to out weigh the talent here. Unless the team the first half of the season reappears, season over.

    • snoboarder92201 - May 6, 2011 at 8:30 AM

      Let me start by saying that I am a flyers fan. More then any Philly sport, Flyers come first in my book. Going into the playoffs, the one team i did not want to play was Boston. After embarrassing them last year the way we did, you know they stewed all off season thinking about the collapse and then thought about it all season long. We saw that come out in game 1. There was no way we could win that game. I do not think we had a chance to win the series before the puck was even dropped. There is no way we could match their intensity and drive to beat us. Maybe our guys thought they were in their heads, that would have been foolish. I would love to say that i think we will be able to do it again but i don’t think we can. Boston wants to put us away and get rid of us and the collapse that happened last year. That is why they came out in Game 3 all systems firing. The Flyers should have been the ones coming out in desperation mode but Boston will not let off the throttle. I will be cheering and never give up until the game is over but i do not have a lot of confidence in them tonight. It was a great regular season. They showed that they can be a cup winning team, just need to show it at the right time of the year. This year, more then any year, we need goal tending. The best defensive team (on paper) is not enough to win a championship. Sure we missed Pronger but one player does not win a series for any team, only a couple of games maybe.

      But I will leave it with this, if we do win tonight, Boston will be thinking about last year a whole lot on the plane ride back to Philly.

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