-- Philadelphia Flyers
goalie coach Jeff Reese
clearly is the most qualified person to respond to the most asked question in the City of Brotherly Love these days.
"What about Bob?"
After all, it's Reese who usually is the first one fist-bumping his newest protégé, Flyers rookie goalie Sergey "Bob" Bobrovsky, whenever he takes the ice for his morning skate.
"And if I'm not smiling he'll go, 'Jeff, what's the matter? You OK? Happy, happy?'" Reese said with a grin. "Because it seems like he's always happy. He's having the time of his life and he's an absolute pleasure to work with. He loves to be at the rink and loves to work and that's exciting for me."
What's also exciting is the fact Bobrovsky not only is in the running for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie, but maybe even the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the League.
Bobrovsky was named the NHL Rookie of Month for November. In 11 games, he went 7-1-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. For the season, the 22-year-old is 12-4-2 with a 2.18 GAA and .926 save percentage. During the Flyers' 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) from Oct. 26 through Nov. 15, Bobrovsky sported a 1.70 GAA and a .946 save percentage.
Reese also has been keeping tabs on the fan voting for the 2011 All-Star Game presented by Discover. He's well aware that the last League release showed Bobrovsky second in the fan balloting.
"I think he should be, based on his record and his numbers," Reese told NHL.com. "But, again, we still have a ways to go. We're watching the situation closely. But what impresses me most is the fact he's very mature for his age. He's played a couple of years in the KHL, but he has his routines and the way he works … he does certain things on game days and certain things when he's not playing. He keeps himself in tremendous shape with his flexibility, strength training and all kinds of core stuff. He really works at it and prepares like a pro."
It's amazing that such a talented player at one of the more difficult positions to play in any sport can fly under the radar this long. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
signed the Russian goalie to a three-year, entry-level contract this past May, and in a matter of months, he's become much more than a flash in the pan.
In fact, he's a keeper.
Reese compared Bobrovsky's style and work ethic to that of Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff
"Based on what I've seen so far -- and keeping in mind we're taking this one game at a time -- he reminds me a lot of Kiprusoff with his movements and athleticism," Reese said. "The way he competes … maybe not as aggressive as Kipper, but he's just about the same size."
Bobrovsky was so impressive during training camp that coach Peter Laviolette
started him opening night in Pittsburgh as the Penguins celebrated the opening of Consol Energy Center. He was the youngest goalie in Flyers history to start a season opener at 22 years, 17 days, but played like a veteran that night, stopping 29 of 31 shots to steal the show in a 3-2 Flyers victory. It should have signaled a sign of things to come.
"I think he knew it would be different in North America, since the physical aspect, the rinks and even the atmosphere are all different," Reese said. "Shots are taken from everywhere and he had to adjust to the traffic in front of him. But he's adjusted, he understands he really has to battle to find the puck and that's something that has changed over the years.
"It was easier when I played, but now the guys are so big and stand in front. And your defensemen are stepping out and blocking shots, so you really have to battle to find the puck. But because of his intelligence, the way he works, how he wants to get better and wants to be the best, I'm not surprised how well he's adjusted to the game here."
Reese admits the communication between coach and goalie was difficult at first, but they've since discovered common ground.
"In July it was different because he didn't speak any English, but it's not as difficult as you think because you can show with actions when you're on the ice," Reese said. "In the video room, you can show what you want. But he's picking up the language. He's pretty smart and a pretty intelligent guy. He knows certain words. He knows certain things that I want, and I understand certain things he likes."
And what does "Bob" like?
"He has those routines," Reese said. "The thing is, when you have a 21- or 22-year-old kid, a lot of times they have no idea, even though they might have played a year or two in the minors. They're still not sure. But this kid has a head on his shoulders, is really intelligent. You can see it in his game, the way he reads the play, the way he positions himself in certain situations. He's a very, very smart hockey player."
Reese said he hasn't needed to be in Bobrovsky's ear as much as he did earlier in the season.
"I guess I backed off a little bit," he said. "We went through a stretch where we were playing almost every night (10 games in 17 days). So you just want his mind fresh. You want him to go out playing and not over-think things, so there's a time to go at it and a time to back off.
"It's difficult at this level to improve in certain areas, especially in handling the speed of the game. But Bob's done that and it shows in his preparedness and intelligence."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale