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Turning to veteran goalie smart call by Laviolette

by Ken Baker and Justin Goldstein
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are now a week old and most series have at least reached their midpoints. Four games, in the postseason at least, is a big enough body of work to examine some trends.
So we have put our goalie experts -- bloggers Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild and Ken Baker of Stop Da Puck blog -- to work again, looking at perhaps the biggest story so far in the first round: the changing of the goalie guard in Philadelphia. They also talk about some of the biggest goalie surprises, both good and bad, so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here, Ken Baker looks at the reasons why going to Brian Boucher was the right choice and what the future holds for Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Justin Goldman looks at why Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled and what he needs to do better if he gets another chance.

Who becomes No. 1  goalie for Flyers?


Everybody, it seems, loves a good controversy. Now, Philadelphia Flyers fans can get into the act. Welcome to "Bobgate."

The innuendo and conspiracy theories surrounding Philadelphia's rotating cast of goalies in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is enough to make any controversy lover content. The options are almost endless and the outcomes too varied to even fully delineate.

Let's revisit the facts.

Before turning to veteran Brian Boucher -- then, in desperation, Michael Leighton -- in his series against the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette went with the alluring promise of youth, picking 22-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky as his starting goalie in the playoffs.

But it turned out to be a potentially misguided notion that has put Philadelphia' series in peril.

Clearly, the move to finally throw Boucher, 33, into the starting job was the prudent one at the time it happened in Game 2 -- Boucher's leaky Game 5 showing notwithstanding.  Boucher was a calming presence in the net. Before his Game 5 meltdown, his postseason 1.45 goals-against average and .954 save percentage, including a brilliant 28-save Game 4 in Buffalo, back up Laviolette's choice. But, clearly, it was a choice that came two games too late.

Hindsight is always 20/20. But the warning signs of a ready-to-fold Bobrovsky (who not only has lost the starting job, but has been ingloriously demoted to No. 3 on the goalie depth chart behind Leighton) were evident to many watchers of the Philadelphia goalie conundrum.

The Flyers rookie didn't exactly fly into the playoffs. During the final 10 games of the regular season, Bobrovsky let in soft goals with some sloppy and floppy netminding. In fact, in his final regular-season start, on April 9, against the Islanders, he was yanked (in favor of Boucher) after allowing 3 goals on 10 shots.  Even so, a week before the playoffs, Laviolette proclaimed Bobrovsky his man.

As a result, Bob would become the youngest goalie in this year's NHL playoffs. And, within five days, also become the first to lose his job.

Make no mistake, Bobrovsky was put in a high-pressure situation as Philadelphia's starter, one of the most obsessed upon positions in all of sports. The fact that Leighton, the hero from last year's run to the Stanley Cup Final, was added to the mix in the regular season's last two weeks, only added to that pressure.

Now, after Game 5 and facing a 3-2 deficit in the series to the upset-minded Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia must find some goaltending answers fast.

Yet if Philly can recover from their early goalie stumble, if Boucher can bounce back or Leighton can recapture his 2010 magic, and if the team can figure out a way to consistently solve Ryan Miller, Laviolette can redeem himself.

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