Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s misplaying of the puck led to the game and series-winning goal in Philly’s 3-1 Game 5 loss to New Jersey Tuesday night. It was another in a long line of disappointing goaltender showings that have plagued the franchise since it last won a Stanley Cup in 1975. Who put up the all-time worst Flyers playoff goalie performances? That’s our focus in this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Michael Leighton
Yes, Leighton took the Flyers to their last Stanley Cup final appearance in 2010, but he’s not on the list for that season. He’s here because the following post-season he registered an abysmal .862 save percentage and 3.43 goals-against average in two games. That’s primarily why he played the entire 2011-12 campaign in the American League.
9. Sean Burke
Currently the man touted with reviving Mike Smith’s career in Phoenix, the Coyotes goalie coach was a bomb in his 1998 first round run with Philly, posting a 1-4 record, .860 SP and 3.60 GAA.
8. Antero Niittymaki
Selected 168th overall by Philly in 1998, Niittymaki didn’t play a playoff game for the team until 2006. And with a gaudy 4.11 GAA and .828 SP in two games that post-season, it’s no wonder he never played another one in a Flyers jersey again.
7. Sergei Bobrovsky
It wasn’t all that long ago Bobrovsky was touted as the Flyers’ long-term answer in net. In his initial playoff showing he had an 0-2 record, .877 SP and 3.23 GAA. His next post-season was even worse: He allowed five goals on 18 shots in 37 total minutes (giving him an abysmal 8.13 GAA and .722 SP).
6. Bob Froese
Now a pastor in New York, Froese had 31 regular season wins in 1985-86 and 28 victories two years earlier, but was nothing short of a disaster in his three post-seasons as a Flyer, when he amassed a 2-6 record, 3.74 GAA and .864 SP over 12 appearances from 1984-1986.
5. Bruce Gamble
He was nearing the end of a long career by the time he arrived in Philly in February of 1971, but Gamble had still won 100 games and was traded as part of a package for Bernie Parent. In the ’71 playoffs, he allowed 12 goals in two games and posted an .821 save percentage. Gamble played just 24 more games after that before an on-ice heart attack ended his career in 1972.
4. Robert Esche
His first extended playoff run in Philadelphia was pretty decent – he played 18 games for them in 2004 and recorded an 11-7 record, 2.32 GAA and .918 SP – but the next time he and the Flyers got back to the post-season was a far different story: In 2006, he was 2-4 with a 4.20 GAA and .875 SP and appeared in just 18 more games for the organization before leaving to play in the Kontinental League in 2007.
3. Ilya Bryzgalov
Leave aside all the sideshow elements to Bryzgalov’s first year as a Flyer – the colorful quotes, the philosophical ruminations, the insightful and entertaining Twitter account – and just look at his numbers: an .887 SP, 3.46 GAA and a playoff-worst 37 goals allowed. It doesn’t matter that Bryzgalov’s teammates weren’t there to bail him out – for a $5.6 million salary cap hit (until 2020), his stats are simply unacceptable.
2. Robbie Moore
The 5-foot-5 inch Moore played only one post-season with the Flyers. In a five-game regular season stint that followed legend Bernie Parent’s eye injury and retirement, Moore had great numbers (1.77 GAA, .929 SP) for Philly. But in five playoff games, he registered an .838 SP and 4.03 GAA and played just one game after that (for Washington in 1982-83).
1. Roman Cechmanek
In his three regular seasons with the Flyers (2000-2003), Cechmanek had a 1.96 GAA, .923 SP and 20 shutouts. Unfortunately, in his first post-season with the team, he posted an .891 SP and 3.12 GAA and in his final playoffs he had a .909 SP. Making matters worse, in Game 4 of Philly’s 2002 series against Ottawa, he skated to center ice before yelling at his teammates on the bench. The next day at practice, they were taking shots at his head. Technically, Cechmanek posted a better SP than Moore, but his mental meltdown on his own teammates sets him apart.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.