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10 years after leading Flyers to Eastern Conference finals, Boucher a key for Philly again @NHLdotcom

Confident in the crease, Brian Boucher had one thought facing the shot that would determine if the Flyers were headed to the post-season or the off-season.

Be patient.

It's a feeling the veteran goalie knows well.

He's had plenty of patience in a career that started with such promise in Philadelphia before sputtering in five other stops in the NHL - and other locales in the minors - before he found himself back with the Flyers and the playoffs at stake.

Ollie Jokinen was New York's last shot at tying Sunday's win-or-go home Game 7-type finale and extending a shootout. Jokinen made a move on Boucher and finished with a backhand that softly bounced off the goalie's pad.

Boucher was mobbed by his teammates as the Flyers clinched a playoff spot with their 2-1 win. His patience paid off - in the stop against Jokinen and with a spot as the No. 1 goalie entering the playoff series against New Jersey.

"It was nice to have that feeling," Boucher said on Monday. "It's been a long time."

Try 10 years.

Yes, it's been a decade since Boucher capped his rookie season with a ride all the way to the Eastern Conference finals.

Boucher was 20-10-3 in 35 regular-season games and had a .918 save percentage, best among rookies. His 1.91 goals-against average topped the NHL and made him the first rookie in 49 seasons to play 25 games with an average under two goals a game.

It was the kind of rookie season that had the Flyers feeling they had their goalie of the future, but Boucher only lasted two more seasons and never recaptured the sensational success of that 2000 playoff run.

He improbably gets another chance, the last goalie standing out of seven the Flyers had on the roster this season. Five played. Philadelphia was wracked by injuries in net, most notably season-ending hip surgery on starter Ray Emery.

"He's making the big saves at the big times of the games," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "He's holding us in hockey games a lot of times and that's what you need your goaltender to do."

He never did it better than in 2000.

Boucher was former coach Craig Ramsay's choice to start every playoff game in series victories over Buffalo and Pittsburgh. After the Flyers lost the first two games of the series against the Penguins at home, Boucher won consecutive overtime victories in Pittsburgh - which featured a memorable five-overtime victory that evened the series.

In that classic, Boucher allowed a goal on the first Penguins shot 2:22 in before stopping the next 57 and holding them scoreless over the next 149 minutes, 39 seconds.

Philadelphia built a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey and seemed primed to reach the Cup finals for the second time in three years. But the Flyers dropped three straight games - two at home - and were eliminated.

Simon Gagne, a rookie on that team, hasn't forgotten how close Boucher got the Flyers to playing for the Stanley Cup before blowing it.

"That's what shocked me the most," Gagne said. "We were coming home for Game 5 so basically we had almost two home games to get the win.

"It's always going to be on my mind, maybe be on Brian Boucher's mind, too, what happened 10 years ago. It's always going to be there when we face Jersey. It'll always be on my mind."

The No. 7 seed Flyers went 5-1 against the Devils this season, a record that, coupled with the momentum of Sunday's thrilling shootout victory, gives them a shot of confidence against New Jersey and goalie Martin Brodeur.

"It's good to go in kind of rolling," Richards said.

Boucher is on an upswing at the right time. He shut out Toronto on April 6 and made 24 saves in the playoff-clincher against the Rangers. He'd still be stuck as third string if not for injuries to Emery and Michael Leighton.

Boucher will savour this experience a bit more because he knows how fleeting success is in the NHL. He lost his starting job to Roman Cechmanek early in the 2000-01 season, played one more year in Philly and was traded to Phoenix.

"I think when you have a rookie season like that, it's a tough act to follow," Boucher said. "I was a young guy that didn't really have the experience and I put the pressure on myself to do it again. I wanted to do it again the next year to justify the contract that I got. Roman came in and he played great and that's how it goes. It was a lost year."

He's had his moments: Boucher set the NHL modern record with five consecutive shutouts in 2003-04. He returned to the Flyers organization in 2007 and played 42 games with their AHL affiliate to prove to NHL general managers he could still play.

Boucher, or "Boosh" as he's known, landed with San Jose and recorded a shutout in his first start.

Philly was where he always hoped for another chance.

"I always wanted to come back to Philly," he said. "I don't know why."

Maybe it's for moments like this.

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