What We Learned

Game 1 of the 2011 Flyers vs. Bruins series started off with a proverbial thud for the home team, but what can the coach, the team, and the fans take from the whipping?

Forget the irrelevant. In a pregame interview with NBC, 43-year-old Mark Recchi, a former Flyer and current Bruin, said that the Bruins players have not been pre-occupied with thoughts of making up for last years blown chance of closing out the Flyers after taking a three games to none lead. “Nearly half of this team wasn’t here last year, so it’s not a big deal to us. We are just focused on this year.” Same old cliché’s from a veteran hockey player who does not want to give his opponent any headlines to post on the bulletin board in the locker room. It is completely understandable for Recchi to not draw attention to the past; but if you believe that the Bruins players haven’t been thinking about a rematch since game-seven ended last year, then you probably have pictures of the Lochness Monster, Big Foot, and the Abominable Snowman hanging up in your room. At the same time, the Flyers can’t think of what happened last year, its not going to help them this time around.

Impose fear and close shooting lanes. The Flyers not only have to match the Bruins physical play, with more than Pronger and JVR answering the call, but they also must sacrifice themselves in front of shots for the sake of the team as much as Boston is willing to do. That does not mean that they should go out and hit everything that moves or lay down in front of every shot taken, it means they have to be physical and smart at the same time.

Stay out of the box. The Bruins power play is basically non-existent, but it was easy to see that penalties kill momentum in one fell swoop, damaging any hopes of building sustained pressure on top of one or two positive plays.

Help out the goalie. It is abundantly clear that Tim Thomas is better than whichever goalie plays for the Flyers. Realizing that fact means that the Flyers defense has to play twice as hard as the Bruins do without the calming sense to rely on in net. Covering open spaces in the slot and behind the net, tying up opponents sticks that have any chance of redirecting a shot, back-checking at a fervent pace, and keeping the odd-man rushes to a minimum are all musts. When the weakness is the goalie the idea is to make it easier on him, not to showcase the biggest flaw even more.

Set up match-ups that work in the Flyers favor. Why is the fourth line playing against the Bruins top line? What has Carcillo done to garner so much love and top-line playing time from the coaching staff? As the home team the Flyers have the ability to get the last change before the puck drops. Even the Bruins coach, Claude Julien, said he wants to keep his top guys away from “certain players” on the Flyers bench. Well he only gets the ability to set that up in three games this series, other than that he has to try and react to what Laviolette does. Take advantage of it!

Ultimately, this playoff series will involve the athlete’s body, heart, and determination more than his ability with his stick. Some Flyers players didn’t figure that out before Game 1 was out of reach.


2011 Mock Draft

This year’s draft could be unlike any other. With a proposed rookie wage scale that is most likely going to pass, teams now have the opportunity to trade picks, and/or players, to move up or move down in the draft without sacrificing paying top quality, yet unproven, talent an arm and a leg. For most teams at the top of the draft board there is more than one hole to fill, and for teams looking to make the jump to the big time a glaring weakness could be fixed with a single top 10 pick. That being said, here is a mock draft with every team picking in their pre-determined spot, because who knows what is going to happen before draft day between the NFL and NFLPA.

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Cam Newton, Auburn

Why? Last years 2nd round pick Jimmy Clausen does not look to be the answer for the Panthers at QB, and with athleticism that rivals Vince Young and infinitely better throwing mechanics the upside for Newton is endless. A risky pick that could pay off in two years.

2. Denver Broncos – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

Why? Everyone expects Denver to take a front 7 defensive player, but with two headed secondary of Bailey and Peterson the Broncos would force QBs to hold onto the ball longer. At 6 feet tall and a physical element to his game Peterson is tops on most draft boards, and with two 2nd round picks it makes sense.

3. Buffalo Bills – LB Von Miller, Texas A&M

Why? He’s so flexible that the Aggies made up a position just for him, “joker”. He can play LB or DE, and for a team with more than one need on defense the Bills need someone that they can plug in at more than one position from time to time. He fills more than a few holes.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Why? Carson Palmer has threatened to retire if he isn’t traded? Automatically creating a need for a QB. He had a great pro day, looked comfortable under center, and showed off more athleticism than originally thought. AJ Green is a possibility, but the Bengals need someone to throw the ball first.

5. Arizona Cardinals – DT/DE Marcell Dareus, Alabama

Why? He brings explosive speed from either the middle or off the edge, which can create havoc for opposing QBs. A lackluster pass rush last year could really benefit from the added attention offensive lines with give Dareus.

6. Cleveland Browns – WR AJ Green, Georgia

Why? There is a possibility that Green won’t be available here, but if he is the Browns will pounce. After drafting Colt McCoy last year having someone for him to throw the ball to is a major priority, and there is no one better than Green in this draft.

7. San Francisco 49ers – DE/LB Robert Quinn, North Carolina

Why? The 49ers gave up an alarming amount of big plays on defense last year. Partly due to insufficient cornerback play and partly due to the inability to rush the QB. Quinn offers a huge upgrade at the latter no matter where he plays, but his athleticism could lend himself to be used more as a LB.

8. Tennessee Titans – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

Why? Even though Fairley is considered by many to be a one-year wonder thanks to an average 2009 season and the Titans have a huge need for a QB, but could look to bolster other positions first and address QB later on. Add to that the fact that the Titans employ Fairley’s former college defensive line coach and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

9. Dallas Cowboys – DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

Why? Many early predictions had Bowers at the top of draft boards, but injury questions pushed him down. He’s a quality choice at #9, garnering comparisons to Julius Peppers during his workouts. For a defense that is thin past Demarcus Ware, Bowers can certainly bolster the line.

10. Washington Redskins – QB Jake Locker, Washington

Why? McNabb? Nope. Grossman? Nope. The Redskins need a QB, and Locker is the best available. He would have been the first overall pick last year, but a middle of the road senior campaign lands him at #10 this year. Negatives aside, Locker has been compared to Steve Young. For a franchise desperate for a QB, that’s a mighty fine comparison.

11. Houston Texans – DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Why? A 260-pound, lightly recruited tight end out of high-school Watt is now a 292-pound defensive beast. He can easily gain more weight to be a behemoth on the defensive line, and will give the Texans’ much more scheme possibilities in their 3-4 system.

12. Minnesota Vikings – DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

Why? Tremendous playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, Liuget can get in the offensive backfield faster than most at DT, and with a glaring weakness at the position Liuget has jumped from a possible 2nd rounder to a top 15 pick in many big boards after his pro-day.

13. Detroit Lions – OT Tyron Smith, USC

Why? Left Tackle is one of the most important positions in the game, especially when you have a quality starter who has the knack for getting injured. Smith could help sure up the porous Lions offensive line and be a security blanket for Stafford.

14. St. Louis Rams – WR Julio Jones, Alabama

Why? Sam Bradford is a stud, but he needs a receiver to throw to. Second to Green by fractions, especially after his eye-popping pro-day, Jones is a substantial upgrade, and could become the one-two punch that the Rams need for years to come.

15. Miami Dolphins – RB Mark Ingram Jr, Alabama

Why? This pick marks back-to-back Crimson Tide players, and the first RB off the board. For a Dolphins team that thrives on the running game Ingram just makes sense. Current RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are looking at free agency, and some new blood wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Why? While many don’t think he will be available, if he is the Jaguars should be thrilled. They have a number of young defensive linemen thanks to last year’s draft, but cornerback is an area of concern. This pick should help solidify that.

17. New England Patriots – OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Why? The Patriots offensive line is old. Bringing in a player like Castonzo, who can start right away, can help refresh the aging starters. At 6’7”, 310 pounds, why wouldn’t you bring in a 53-game starter like this one? It’s just the Belichick way.

18. San Diego Chargers – DE Cameron Jordan, California

Why? With a mammoth need for front seven help, the Chargers would jump for joy if Jordan slips to them. The son of a former NFLer with a high motor and a fantastic work ethic Jordan gets the nod over Ryan Kerrigan, especially given the west coast ties.

19. New York Giants – OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

Why? Tom Coughlin might appreciate Eli Manning’s arm, but he yearns for a tough running game that can eat up clock and tire-out defenses. Carimi offers the ability to do such a thing at either Guard or Tackle with history of playing in a pro-style offense with the Badgers.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

Why? Kerrigan can not only play DE if needed, but given the right set up he has the potential to excel at OLB. For a defense that is severely lacking in that area he makes for the best available option.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida

Why? This will anger Steelers fans who want to reunite the Pouncey brothers, but the Chiefs need Pouncey when they are ready to cut ties with current center, over-the-hill Wiegmann. Replacing Mike Vrabel with a young OLB is a possibility, but Pouncey is a more solid choice.

22. Indianapolis Colts – DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri

Why? When in doubt, go with the best available player. Smith would be an incredible steal at #22, and would be quite an upgrade on a defensive line that is in some need for a quick fix.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

Why? Yes, Andy Reid likes to build from the front on back, but it was extremely evident that CB is a tremendous need for the Eagles. Teams beat up whoever lined up opposite Asante Samuel. Smith is the best CB available, and some rank him above Amukamera. It’s a pick that needs to be made at this point.

24. New Orleans Saints – DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

Why? The Saints need more sacks from their DE’s. With Clayborn’s stock dropping by the day he could be snatched up by a willing Saints organization desperate for line help. Expect Cameron Heyward to be looked at given the family ties – father played for the Saints – but Clayborn gets the nod.

25. Seattle Seahawks – QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

Why? Matt Hasselbeck is almost ready to join his brother at ESPN studios and its evident that Charlie Whitehurst is not the answer. If the Seahawks can groom Mallett under Hasselbeck for one more year Mallett could become a true starter in the NFL.

26. Baltimore Ravens – OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State

Why? Drafting Sherrod makes the Ravens better at left and right tackle. They would be able to move Oher to the right side and sure up both ends. If Pouncey is still available it would be an easy choice to take him over Sherrod, but the Ravens will still be happy with this pick-up.

27. Atlanta Falcons – DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

Why? The possibility of Heyward and Clayborn flip-flopping is there, but ultimately the Falcons need defensive help in a bad way. No matter which DE is available by the time they are on the clock, expect the Falcons to snatch him up.

28. New England Patriots – OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Why? A player who can play right away, but would benefit from some tutelage, Ayers has an uncanny ability to rush the passer. The Patriots benefit from Ayers having a subpar combine and pro-day, two of the main reasons he will still be available this late in the draft. Another reason is the amount of 1st round defensive players available this year.

29. Chicago Bears – OT Nate Solder, Colorado

Why? The Bears had the worst offensive line in the league last season. Yes, the league! At 6’8”, 319 pounds Solder has the ability to stop pretty much anything coming his way. And, being a converted tight end, he also has the athleticism to lead block on running plays. He is raw, but is a great value selection at #29.

30. New York Jets – OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

Why? Have you met the Jets? They preach defense, defense, defense, and add to that some more defense. They have a need at WR with question marks surrounding Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, but will find it hard to pass on a converted DE to OLB who can rush the QB as well as Houston can.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Aaron Williams, Texas

Why? Williams’ not only plays CB, but his athleticism, tenacity, and physical play allow him to dabble at free safety. For a secondary that got lit up in the Super Bowl last year and is looking at possibly not re-signing free agent to be Ike Taylor, adding depth to the secondary is a necessity.

32. Green Bay Packers – DT Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

Why? A Temple guy? Really? He is the best DT still on the board, and with Johnny Jolly spending a lot of time in the courts it is a need for the reigning champs. Wilkerson not only is capable of stopping the run, but also is capable of rushing the QB from the outside when called upon. A good pick-up to end the first round.

Taking A Different Look At It

After countless articles written about this Flyers team, and the pending Game 7 in Philadelphia I’ve decided to go a different route and take a look at the series from the Sabres’ fans point of view. Here it goes. For the record, I am 100% a Flyers fan, but I did this objectively.

Dear Buffalo Sabres,

What is going on? How are we facing elimination in an away game seven match-up against a team that has started three separate goalies in one playoff series when we could have ended their season at home last night? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we have Ryan Miller? He’s supposed to be the ultimate equalizer.

Yes, our team isn’t as talented or as deep, even though both teams have had 10 goal scorers in the series.

But the Flyers leading scorer in the regular season was Jeff Carter, who is currently injured. Their biggest power play chip, Chris Pronger, barely played a lick in game 6 after sitting out the rest of the series and, from the looks of it, is still nursing his hand injury. (get it, nursing, because he’s a cry-baby. Pretty good, right?) Their captain, Mike Richards, has yet to put the puck in the net and nearly decapitated Tim Connolly yet received no retribution from any Sabre? Isn’t Mike Grier on this team for the sole purpose of making guys pay for such acts? I heard that they aren’t even going to review the hit, why does the NHL hate the Sabres so much? Their best plus/minus guy in the regular season, Matt Carle, is a minus four in the playoffs, yet they’re still tied.

Their goalie carousel is playing out like a soap opera. One of them, Michael Leighton, was an AHL guy the whole season, except for one game, and they decided to start him? Are you serious? In related news, it will probably sweep the daytime Emmy’s. That would be like starting Patrick Lalime. Even he had more starts in the regular season, four, than Leighton, and I think he sits in the box with our General Manager. Miller has two shutouts, and if he didn’t face so many shots this series would already be over.

Isn’t Danny Briere like 5’6”? I seem to remember that when he played in Buffalo! How do we constantly let him through our defense without sending him to the ice? He’s the Flyers top goal scorer for Pete’s sake. Isn’t it about time Tyler Myers just starts following him up and down the rink already? Every time I see that little guy skate through us I dream of what it would be like to see a mini-me line with him and Nathan Gerbe giving the one-two punch. It’s a shame we couldn’t re-sign him, but not surprising. This is Buffalo after all.

Ultimately, game seven will come down to the Sabres needing to actually score more than one goal to win. Thomas Vanek needs some help out there! He has five goals, no assists, and is a minus six. That single stat line shows that we don’t have any true goal scoring threats outside of him and our defense is not playing up to the usual standard. When will Drew Stafford wake up? He has taken the most shots on the team and has only one goal. How about Jason Pominville, where did his goal touch go? It’s a known fact that the Flyers goalies stink, why isn’t everyone just shooting from where ever they can?

With firepower abundant on the Flyers bench we need to figure out a way to continue to exploit the Flyers goalies in game seven. If their wingers get open they can pinpoint their shots much better than our roster could ever dream.

Miller can only do so much; we need someone to step up! Maybe Brad Boyes will finally justify us trading for him mid-season. He has yet to register a point in the series, so now is as good a time as any.

If we think we can win based solely on Miller shutting the Flyers potent offense down again we are in for a rude awakening. The big guys in that locker room are going to wake up. From Briere to Zherdev, that entire line-up can score, even their defense. Here’s hoping they don’t do it until next October.


Nervous Buffalo fan

‘All About Bob’ to ‘What About Bob’ in 24 Hours

Five goals against Ryan Miller is no easy task.

The Philadelphia Flyers offense came alive in game two of their round one match-up with the Buffalo Sabres. The only problem was that the Sabres were able to match the Flyers throughout their first period onslaught, making the difference between game one and game two about as opposite as possible. For lack of a better comparison, it was night and day.

Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots. Awful? Absolutely, but it is not as though the outing was impossible to rebound from, especially considering the ability that Bob has shown this season to bounce back from losses and play well.

Tonight Brian Boucher will start in net. After a solid performance in his game two substitution and a general rumor that the players like to play in front of Boucher more than Bob it is not surprising that game three features the veteran goalie starting between the pipes. What is surprising is the backup situation. Naturally one would assume that Bob would simply put on a hat, take a seat and work the bench’s door, waiting for his time to avenge himself.

So much for that thought! Michael Leighton has been named the backup goalie for the first away game for the Flyers. I will give you some time to put your eyes back in your skulls and close your jaw. Once again, Leighton is the backup for game three. A player who has faced 36 NHL level shots this season, where he allowed 4 goals against in his only appearance, and was subsequently sent down to the Phantoms for some “conditioning training”.

Sporting a 2.22 goals against average and a 93 percent save percentage sounds impressive, except when you take into account it was all done in the AHL, the minor league. Add to that the fact that he only went 14-12 and his promotion from Phantoms starter to backup goalie for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations boggles the mind. Let’s be honest, the last vivid memory Flyers fans have of this guy is the soft goal he let up against Patrick Kane that allowed the Blackhawks to skate away with the Cup in the Flyers building. If something happens to Boucher can he really be counted on after a third of a year in the AHL and that memory surely in his head?

Peter Laviolette is a great coach, a king of the timeout in last years playoff run, and trusts Leighton ever since he picked him up off of waivers from Carolina last season, but this decision not only influences this season, but many to come. If the Flyers view Bobrovsky as a possible NHL stud goaltender down the line they should strongly question this decision internally.

Not allowing the kid to prove himself will become a detriment to his overall confidence level and may eventually come back to bite the organization in the rear.

That being said, hopefully Boucher finds his playoff magic, Leighton will not have to be used, and everyone can celebrate a spirited effort in a Flyers victory tonight.

It All Started, or Ended, With Versteeg

People love playing the blame game, and with the horrible second half of the Philadelphia Flyers season there is probably more culpability to go around than ever.

However, for a team that was playing absolutely wonderful hockey for a little over half of the season it is hard to really explain why they started a downward spiral that they can’t escape from, except for the fact that a new player was added to the fold at the same time the team stopped looking like the playoff favorite.

Maybe Kris Versteeg isn’t the only reason the team has stunk recently, but his addition didn’t do much positives in the long run. On paper Versteeg looks like a great pick-up. He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, knows what back checking is and how to do it, and was on the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning team last season. However, after spending half of a season learning bad habits with the Toronto Maple Leafs and being shuffled over to a team that is lacking a group of veteran leadership that most cup winning franchises consist of may have caused Versteeg to lose his way a bit.

Perhaps Versteeg shouldn’t be blamed at all. We can go one step further and push it all on Paul Holmgren, the Flyers General Manager. For a team that has always tried to add a piece to the puzzle to help them get over the proverbial hump and hoist the Cup, this years addition was more perplexing than helpful.

Usually the Flyers are somewhere in the middle of the pack and a trade deadline move helps fortify a roster that is in need of a certain type of player. This year the Flyers were the top dog; they didn’t need any help to be the best team in the league, especially from another kid.

If Holmgren felt a move actually needed to be made, adding a solid veteran who has the wisdom to understand how hard the road to the playoffs is and how special the current Flyers team is would have made a lot more sense. Players such as Cory Stillman, Brad Boyes, or Bryan McCabe could have offered the team more depth, which is what trade deadline additions are all about, but could have also added invaluable veteran leadership for a bunch of youngsters trying to out-do last year.

The young players on this Flyers roster are talented, but also might have the tendency to get a little full of themselves. When everyone tells you that your team is great, starting to believe it and lay off a bit of the tenacity that was present early on is easy to do. A veteran could help restore that fight and hunger that the players seem to have lost somewhere along the way.

Versteeg has the chance to be a quality player in the NHL, but winning a Cup so young and being traded to a team that was primed for one this year may have built up his ego to a point that it shouldn’t be residing at.

Whether you want to blame one player, a bunch of players, injuries, goalies, or the general manager, it is all relatively secondary. If they can somehow turn it on it all becomes moot, but if they don’t fans will be looking for a scapegoat. Who is that going to be? Take your pick.

Favorites Schmavorites (archived from April 3rd, 2011)

It’s Masters week.

For a tournament that takes four days to complete, 72 holes to be exact, every PGA Tour player has spent weeks and months preparing for the beast that is Augusta National. It’s a common understanding that the sport of golf is exciting only to those that play it themselves, but the Masters seem to have the ability to make people turn on their television sets and watch on Sunday despite their lack of experience with the sport itself.

For every person that has picked up a club and attempted to hit a stationary ball into a gopher hole hundreds of yards away the Masters tournament is something more, it is the be all and end all. It is so prestigious that they don’t even bother giving away a measly trophy; the winner receives a green jacket, but it is more commonly known as a golden ticket; vaulting its wearer into the rarefied atmosphere of the greats. No matter what happens the winner will always be introduced as “Masters champion ______”.

This year there seems to be a breath of fresh air in the tournament, and everyone is taking notice but the odds makers in Las Vegas and old timers on TV. Yes, for the first time since he was a rookie, Tiger Woods is not the preemptive favorite on the money line, but that isn’t a giant move and by no means is it surprising. Since last year he has dipped to seventh in the world golf rankings. What is surprising is that his name appears on the favorites list in the first place, and in second place no less. Is it more news that Tiger isn’t the absolute favorite or that other people are surpassing him? Stupid question. The storyline of this week was set in stone the minute Tiger was named number two by the odds makers, and golf fans are just expected to deal with the chatter all week long.

Tiger left golf for a therapeutic sabbatical, only to return six months later to play in last years Masters, where he finished fourth. Since then there have been glimpses of his game returning, but ultimately nothing of the sort. His spot as a top 5 favorite will seemingly forever be a given because of his past greatness, but at this point it can simply be viewed a gift instead of a birthright. The odds-makers, along with the golf analysts, never want to admit that Tiger doesn’t have it. That’s not to say that he can’t regain his prominence in a sport that is flirting with passing him by, but he isn’t the tournament-winning machine that he used to be. Reality check, his last win was in 2009! The idea that he can win the Masters because he is familiar with the course doesn’t make sense; he still needs to hit the shots and that seems to be a problem at the moment.

Phil Mickelson, affectionately known as “Lefty”, played beautifully this past week at the Shell Houston Open, especially on Saturday and Sunday, and jumped up three spots to number three in the world golf rankings with the win. With his family’s health, as well as his own, apparently under control it isn’t crazy for Lefty to be the favorite. Let’s not forget that he is the defending champion and was the last player to win the Masters after winning the week before when he accomplished the feat in 2006. His position is warranted while the other is not.

Call if a force of habit, call it a lack of interest, call it whatever you want, but when you take an in-depth look at the top golfers over the last year Woods does not appear on it. The odds makers either don’t realize that or simply don’t care enough to do some actual research to come up with a legitimate favorites list. There is a new crop of players with some serious game that should be considered.

Martin Kaymer is currently the number one ranked player in the world and is not considered a top-10 favorite? He has yet to make the cut at Augusta, which he has played at three times, but he is much improved since last years showing. Lee Westwood has the sad moniker of being the ‘best player who has yet to win a major’, but that stigma might be playing with Vegas’ mind a little too much. Dustin Johnson has three top-10 finishes in his last five majors and is one of the longest players off the tee. With success at Augusta often resting on the par-5s that can come in handy. Bubba Watson is equally as long as Johnson, and if he can fix his putting yips he can also make a run at the jacket. Graeme McDowell has won four tournaments in the last nine months. His last two events have been lackluster at best, but four wins since last years Masters is not too shabby. Lastly, Luke Donald won the WGC match-play event earlier this year, and is number four in the world golf rankings. Do they have the resume of Woods and Mickelson? Absolutely not, but this group is relatively young and ready to pave their own golf history.

Each player has earned the right to be looked at as a serious contender, but the common fan will never hear about it because the media and odds makers love Tiger, Phil, and the generation they grew up with. Maybe it’s a familiarity thing, but the generation that they think is knocking on the country club door is making their way in, whether they like it or not.

Tiger used to rule the television ratings, but his time has passed considering a large amount of golf fans haven’t moved away from viewing him in a negative light. This torrid love affair with the past generation is confusing, silly, and off-putting. It’s time for one of the young guns to introduce himself to the world and possibly become a fan favorite. Here’s to hoping one of them can come through.

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.