-- Brian Boucher
knew his time eventually would come. But that didn't mean he didn't require a little sit-down with his coach to jump start the process.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
remembers it well.
"Oh yes, he did ask," Laviolette recalled. "We had a conversation and I know it's frustrating for a player, but the goalie that went in there (Michael Leighton
) was doing well. If someone else were available now, they would not see the net because 'Boosh' is playing so well.
"For me, when a goaltender is going good, winning hockey games and they're doing what you ask of them, that's the guy who goes in the net."
And right now, no one is playing better than Boucher.
"I wanted to let him know that I felt good about my game and I felt going in there that I could do a good job for this team and he agreed with me," Boucher said of his mid-season meeting with Laviolette. "We were in a situation where it was hard to sit other guys and I have to take his word for it. I can't really say much changed after that meeting, but he seemed to understand where I was coming from. He was saying that if the shoe were on the other foot, I'd do the same thing. I knew I just had to wait for that opportunity."
In a season where it seemed goaltenders were dropping faster than Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
could sign them, Boucher was there to maintain some level of sanity the second half of the season. Ray Emery
missed the last 27 games of the regular season with a left hip that needed surgery, Leighton was sidelined the final 13 games with a high ankle sprain and Johan Backlund
missed the final seven games with a lower-body injury.
"When (Leighton) gets that ankle injury in Nashville (March 16), the job was kind of tossed to Brian, and having not played a lot and knowing the intensity of NHL games in February and March when it really cranks up, he did well," Holmgren told NHL.com. "He played a number of games in a row (14 straight to close the season) and he kept us in it and is playing great now."
Boucher would play in 33 games this season -- his highest League total since the 40 games he played with the Phoenix Coyotes
in 2003-04. This season he didn't dress for 11 games, didn't play in 32, dressed but didn't play in four (finger injury) and missed two games due to a lower-body injury.
But that's all water under the bridge now. Boucher is a competitor and it's that desire that certainly aided in his remarkable turnaround this postseason.
"I really, truly mean this when I say I'm just thankful and grateful to get another chance to do this," he said. "Everybody playing pro sports wants to be in this situation and you don't always get to be in this situation. A few people get these chances and I'm just happy to be in this situation again. I know it's been good so far, but I want to keep it going. I don't want it to end just yet. It's been a lot of fun and I want to see how far we can go with this thing."
It's ironic Boucher would exorcise of few ghosts in his first playoff series back in Philadelphia. As a rookie in 2000, his team held a 3-1 series lead against the New Jersey Devils
in the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing in seven. Ten years later, he helped Philadelphia to a five-game series triumph against the Devils in the conference quarterfinals, going 4-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout.
He hasn't allowed an even-strength goal in 187:39, or nine-plus periods.
During the post-series handshake following the Flyers' 3-0 victory in Game 5 in New Jersey, Boucher briefly was stopped by future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur
"He told me great game, and as a matter of fact, great series," Boucher recalled. "He said 'You were great.' It did feel good. Of course it feels great to be on the winning end of the handshake, but to have a guy of that stature give a compliment like that … yeah, it meant a lot."
Boucher, who has played for six different teams in his 10 NHL seasons, finally reached his 100th career victory in Game No. 279 -- a 2-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs
on April 6 at Air Canada Centre.
The support the 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Woonsocket, R.I., has gained this season, particularly in these playoffs, has been overwhelming.
"A lot of people have supported me, from friends, family, former teammates -- I get text messages," he said. "It feels nice that they take notice and I'm happy about it, too, but I'm also trying to keep it in perspective. I realize it's just one round and the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. You want to feel happy and good about yourself but you know there's a lot of work, too, but it does feel good to have people happy for you. There's been a lot of disappointment in my career, as well as good times, but it feels good to have the support."
Flyers forward Ian Laperriere
, who is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a brain contusion, is ecstatic Boucher is playing so well.
"Everyone doubted him except his teammates," Laperriere said. "He took us to where we are and played well down the stretch. We want to help him prove to the hockey world and those supposed hockey experts that they were wrong about him. I'll tell you one thing -- he's not done, either. You can see the fire in his eyes."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com