The Flyers have been searching for their goalie of the future for what seems like forever. We have seen goalie after goalie between the pipes year after year. Since Hextall played 60+ games in each of his first three seasons in the NHL starting in the 86-87 season, no Flyer goalie has played back to back 60 games seasons. A Flyers goalie has only played back to back seasons of 50 games twice since then, once it was done by Hextall in his second stint with the team, and the other time was Martin Biron.
The list of Flyers goalies who we thought might be the long term answer is a long one. At one point, current flyer Brian Boucher was the NHL rookie of the year and the goalie of a team one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals, but after a few years of subpar play, he was traded away. It seems that every year the team has two goalies that are capable of being the starting goalie, they battle each year and one wins the job. Only for that goalie to be found in the very same battle the following year with a different goalie, this time he losses the job and the cycle continues.
This brings me to the guy we call Bob. Sergei Bobrovsky emerged onto the scene and has showed a lot of promise in his first season in the NHL. Way back in 2006, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren considered drafting Bob, but in the end he decided he would be too hard to sign. But on May 6, 2010 the Flyers signed Bob to a three year entry level contract. Bob had played 4 seasons for the Metallurg Novokuznetsk in a Russian league and had put up decent numbers. In the 4 seasons Bob had a 2.72 GAA, which is not bad but hardly enough for people to think he could succeed in the NHL. In 2008 Bob was Russia’s goalie in the World Junior Classics. He played well with a 2.46 GAA and helped his team earn the bronze medal. Before the season started, it looked like newly resigned goalie Michael Leighton would be the starter and fan favorite Brian Boucher would be the backup. Bob was not even the radar of most fans.
Then an injury to Leighton opened the door and Bobrovsky took full advantage. He played so well in pre-season and training camp that he was the team’s starter for the first game of the season in Pittsburgh. During the first two months of the season, Bob went 12-3 with a 2.19 GAA. After his hot start in October and November, it seemed like the 22 year old hit a wall. He played so well in November that he was named the NHL Rookie of the Month.But then in December Bob seemed to hit a wall and posted a sub par 3.48 GAA. Many people questioned the amount of games he was used and wondered if he was being overworked. Since then veteran Brian Boucher has gotten an almost 50/50 split. Since being eased off of a little, he has looked great. In January he went 6-0 with a 1.83 GAA. Bob shows great quickness from post to post and the ability to shut teams down from time to time
As we go into the All-Star break and head down the final stretch of the season, who will Peter Laviolette go to the most. He has already said that he won’t name a number one goalie and he will continue to ride the hot hand. The Flyers have one of the deepest teams in the NHL and have 2 different pairs of defenders that can go up against any team’s first line. Because of this depth, the team doesn’t need spectacular goaltending to wins games. They need a goalie that will consistently make the saves he needs to make and not give up any soft goals.
Brian Boucher is a fan favorite and a very nice guy. But he is an average starter in the NHL at best. He is better suited to be a backup in this league and will never be a dominant goalie. Bob has shown flashes of being that dominant goalie. I believe that Boucher is a good enough goalie to help this team to continue to wins games but he is obviously not the long term option. As Flyers fans, we can only hope the goalie carousel we have had to deal with over the number of years is finally over. Will Bob prove down the stretch that he is capable of being a number 1 goalie for this team for the next decade? The jury is still out on that. But he has played well enough during the first half of the season to give us fans a reason to believe he can and will be that goalie. We just hope that the man we just know as Bob, will be between the pipes at the Wells Fargo Center for the next decade.