In the wake of the Flyers embarrassment – let’s not mince words – at the hands of the Bruins in Round 2, the not-surprising and all-to-easy calls rang up from all corners decrying Philly’s situation between the pipes.
Orange and Black Country needs someone to swoop in to save our blue ice! Someone like Henrik Lundqvis…er…Marc-Andre Fleur…err…Ryan Mille…errrr…
Having one of the top five goalies in the world doesn’t guarantee a championship. Granted, Philadelphia is a much better team than any of the three clubs that own the goalies above, but as the Blackhawks and Flyers (remember them?) proved last year, adequate ‘tending can carry a talented team a long way.
Bobby Clarke, the Flyers senior vice president, told me before this season started that the team made a decision to dedicate cap space to improving their rank of skaters rather than a large chunk to a goalie: “I do not understand the thinking of these teams who spend all their money on goaltending and then don’t make the playoffs or go out in the first round.”
And that’s the right logic. Philly doesn’t need to break the bank for a new goalie, they need to have faith in their current, impressive collection of depth and in the one true No. 1 they already own: Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Russian rookie was solid all season for the Flyers and was the no-doubt starter heading into the playoffs after playing in 54 games and 15 of the final 20. But instead of going back to ‘Bob’ after a Game 2 stinker in the opening round against Buffalo, Philly panicked and demoted the 22-year-old to the press box. That’s where it unravelled.
Easy to say in hindsight they should have went back to Bobrovsky for Game 3, but that doesn’t make it any less of a mistake. The fact he struggled early was no surprise; the playoffs are a different beast and very few freshmen can successfully wade through the pressure-filled playoff waters without the need of a dingy or two. But Bobrovsky showed in Game 4 against the Bruins that he’s capable of carrying a team when, with the majority of his teammates looking all but defeated from puck-drop, the youngster stood tall.
We’ll never know now if he would have shown that same resolve early on or even grown stronger had Philadelphia stuck with plan, but the right move would have been to find out. Just as the right move is to stick with the plan and find out again next season.
Throwing gobs of cash at UFAs Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun (at the expense of losing a key cog such as Ville Leino) would be a mistake. The Flyers have issues – Lack of discipline? Cohesion? – to be sure, but pinning their playoff disappointment all on goaltending, a mess the brass is as much to blame for, is far too simple a solution.
Edward Fraser is the managing editor of The Hockey News. His blog appears regularly.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.