In just over two seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, Peter Laviolette has been known to play the hot hand when he sees fit. In the regular season this strategy has worked for the hockey club in the city of brotherly love, but in crucial situations (09′ Stanley Cup Finals, 10′ quarterfinals series against Buffalo, 10′ semifinals series against Boston) the flame from that hot hand finds a way to burn out.
The signing of Ilya Bryzgalov was supposed to end the stress of picking the right goaltender, but it might have just made that situation that much more difficult.
Last year Laviolette had a rookie goaltender who proved himself worthy to the challenge of starting in the NHL, but was still very green around the ears. The pressure of expectations from leading the Eastern Conference for most of the year and making the Stanley Cup finals a year before gave Sergei Boborovsky a shorter leash than he should have had. Yes the rook did have problems that needed to be fixed (any shot above the middle of the net was a problem for him), but there was no reason to panic. Yet instead of just sticking to a solid plan, the goalie carousel began.
Brian Boucher appeared to still some how have fuel left in the tank, well at least enough fuel for the regular season and three solid starts in the playoffs before he was humbled in game 5 against the Sabres. Then Michael Leighton returned from purgatory in the AHL for a game 5 appearance because somehow Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t even dressed for the game.
After an shaky but decent effort Leighton earned the start for game 6 and subsequently was carved up by the Sabers offense for three goals in the first period. In an elimination game Laviolette had stuck to his guns and played the guy who was key to the Stanley Cup run year before, but this time it was clearly the wrong decision. Thankfully the offense bailed them out and forced a game 7, which they won before being humbled by Boston in the semis thanks to you guessed it bad goaltending!
The Bryzgalov signing in the offseason was supposed to end all of the debates about who should start in net for the Flyers for at least the next four years. Half of the season hasn’t been played yet and the concern level is already beginning to rise. Obviously he isn’t going to go out there and have a shutout every night, but all I want to see is some constancy and apparently that is too much to ask for at this point. I’ll dare even to argue that Sergei Bobrovsky has looked better at points this season, but the backup tends to always look better due to the amount of work. None the less Bobs has impressed in his small amount of work, while Bryz has been a disappointment.