Will A #1 Goalie Please Stand Up (archive post)

It’s a riddle that has plagued the Philadelphia Flyers ever since 1986, the last season with Pelle Lindbergh. Will the team ever find the missing piece to the puzzle, a true number one goaltender?

There have been some with promise, like Antero Nittimaki, Brian Boucher (in his rookie year), or Roman Cechmanek. There was one with extreme promise, Ron Hextall, but ultimately the constant chink in the chain has been the man standing between the pipes.
This season started off with a clear-cut favorite, but as of late the argument over who should start in the playoffs has been heating up. Boucher or Bobrovsky? Is there even a right answer?

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is basically impossible to win it all while using a two-goalie system. Outside of that, four rookies have backstopped a Stanley Cup winning team. Two future hall-of-famers in Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, and two more recently, Cam Ward, with the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes who were coached by current Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, and Antii Niemi, with the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

With a history that proves that Laviolette can take a team with a rookie goalie to the Holy Grail the writing on the wall is Bobrovsky, but with certain star players like Kimmo Timonen publicly stepping into Boucher’s corner thanks to his ability to play the puck the coaches choice could either unite a fledgling unit or create two cliques reminiscent of a high school lunch room.

With the same exact save percentage, eerily similar goals against average, and unfortunately identical goose eggs in the shutout department neither goalie truly stands out on paper. Then again, with three wins IN Pittsburgh and the uncanny ability to come back strong after a poor showing Bobrovsky has been trying to prove that he is deserving of the chance.

The ultimate goal is to exceed last year to finally lift the Cup, and if Boucher is smart enough to take the benching in favor of a rookie in stride it could create a positive vibe for the playoff push. He took the high road last year, and ultimately was called upon to try and save the season when it looked like Michael Leighton was incapable of doing so.

This season is a bit different, especially considering that if it were not for Boucher’s shootout heroics in the last game of the regular season the Flyers would not have been in the playoffs a year ago. The Flyers have resided in the top spot for most of this season’s campaign and have not been forced to rely much on the goaltending. A benching this time around is less of a statement on Boucher’s play and more of a gut feeling that a wet-behind-the-ears kid can overcome the nerves and step up when the team needs him the most.

If Laviolette is right again, the Flyers may finally be able to have their own parade down Broad Street. If he is wrong, a first round exit could have a damaging effect on a young players confidence level for years to come, or be the end for a veteran’s career.

Let’s hope he’s right.

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