It’s About Time! (October 8, 2010)

For the past few seasons it seemed like a forgone conclusion that one team in the Eastern Conference sported at least one Russian hockey stud that would greatly assist in that teams chances of going all the way and was sure to give Flyers’ players headaches along the way. Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Semyon Varlamov, just to name a few. The Philadelphia Flyers never jumped on that bandwagon. It seemed as though the team was more interested in continuing their Canadian ways, with some sprinkling of Finnish players and one or two Americans thrown in for good measure. It worked last year, to a point. The unthinkable is now reality. Bob Clarke, the puppet master for current general manager Paul Holmgren, decided to go against his personal feelings about Russian hockey players and may have made the biggest splash of any recent off-season that this team has seen since Danny Briere came to town. In a word, bob.

If you turned on the game last night midway through the first and expected to see Brian Boucher in net you were sure to be a little confused. If you hadn’t seen any of the preseason games before last night you were definitely scratching your head wondering who was actually playing goalie for the team you thought you knew. Number 35 in your pressbook, the new number one Russian in your heart (for now), Sergei Bobrovsky! His debut not only came on opening night, but against a team that is slated as the number one rival for the Fly guys. The move was more than just a tactical decision, however. It was a win-win for the franchise no matter what happened. If he won the game the Flyers looked like geniuses, if he lost no one would have thought twice about it considering the competition and the circumstances.

Ultimately, the Flyers look like they’re finally giving a young kid a shot. And for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, when they let then rookie goalie Brian Boucher take the starting job from John Vanbiesbrouck, the kid didn’t disappoint. For the most part bob played well, sporting quick pads, an above average glove, and athleticism that is unmatched in his goalie counterparts on this roster. He was greatly assisted a few times by a goalies best friend, the pipes, and his defenses ability to block shots, but ultimately he gave up only 2 goals and had a number of very good saves, either based on positioning or reflexes. Most importantly he got the win and helped spoil the opening of the Penguins new home, CONSOL Energy Center. It was unquestionably a solid start for a 22 year old, despite not being able to communicate effectively with his teammates just yet. As the game starts to slow down his game is sure to improve, along with the language barrier problems, but over the next month every game the youngster plays will be scrutinized by the coaching staff. After all, they have to decide what to do with the possible three-way goalie controversy that could be brewing.

Brian Boucher is long since removed from his rookie breakout season. He is now the Flyers career backup after losing his game in the middle of the decade, and then able to find it again last year. However, in just 24 hours he has made it very well known that he is not happy with the decision to start Bobrovsky over him. “If I had a terrible camp, then maybe there would be some self-doubt,” … “But I had a great camp and I feel like last year, when it was on the line, I did what was asked. And I feel good about that.” That sentiment might sound like he’s got the fire to play well, but it surely won’t sit well with the Flyers brass. Michael Leighton is a career journeyman who, with the help of Jeff Reese, the Flyers goalie coach, was able to tap a new level of his game last season and help carry the team to within two wins of the Holy Grail. Now Bob is thrown into the mix. The team can only dress two, and honestly keeping all three seems like a waste. If bob continues to play well it could be the final nail for Boucher, but right now that’s a BIG if, nevertheless for a team that is often quick to exude themselves on their relative excellence, they MIGHT have gotten this one right. Ultimately, it’s only one game; there are 81 more to play that can assist in the decision making until the real fun begins!

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