Sergei Bobrovksy's playoff run is hard for Flyers' fans

Sergei Bobrovsky has found recent success with the Panthers, forcing Flyers fans to continue wondering what could've been.
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game One
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

I know what you are thinking. You are clicking on this article and thinking about how the Flyers' late-season collapse prevented them from making the Stanley Cup Finals. Nope. Although the Flyers would've fought a lot harder than the four-games-and-out Washington Capitals, let's be honest, they weren't going to make it out of that first round. If they did, they were not getting past round two.

Nope. This goes deeper than that. This Stanley Cup is hard to watch as a Flyers fan. It's not because of any hatred for either Edmonton or Florida. It's because of one player. It's because that one player had once been ours. It's because of Sergei Bobrovsky.

I've been a Flyers fan since I could see them on regular TV. It's ironic because the first game I saw on TV was the game when Fox debuted the glowing puck which many hockey fans detested. The reason that was the first game I saw, Sabres vs Flyers, was that previously, the Flyers had all of their home games on PRISM. For those of you who are too young to remember, PRISM was this channel in the Delaware Valley that was kind of like HBO, in that it showed movies, but also had exclusive rights to all non-Sunday home games of the Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. Think of Comcast Sportsnet, but they would also show movies. It was also a premium station you had to pay for.

After the Flyers moved to local stations, like PHL 57 and PHI 17, in the pre-Comcast days, you always heard the same comments. From the mid-1990s on to, well, now, I've heard the same criticism about the Flyers from fans, prognosticators, and "experts" alike. "They are a good team, but they need a goalie."

Ron Hextall was too emotional. Then they traded him, he came back, and then he was too old. John Vanbeisbrouck was too old. Brian Boucher and Roman Cechmanek couldn't cut it in the playoffs. Ilya Bryzgalov was an unmitigated disaster. Michael Leighton and Ray Emery couldn't stay healthy. But for a brief moment, they had a goalie. It was a goalie they gave up on.

Sergei Bobrovsky has found success since leaving Philadelphia

Bobrovsky's story is well-known at this point. He came in as a rookie and won the starting job in 2010-11, the year after the Flyers made an exciting run to the Stanley Cup Final. He put up some amazing stats but floundered in the playoffs. That led to the Flyers making the trades to acquire Bryzgolov. Bobrovsky was relegated to backup duty while his Russian compatriot started hot in Philly, and then took a turn.

However, before Bryzgalov took a turn, the Flyers traded Bobrovsky to Columbus for three draft picks. One of those picks was traded away. The other two became goalie Anthony Stolarz and winger Taylor Leier. Leier would play in 55 NHL games, scoring just two goals. Stolarz never caught on in Philly, often injured. Stolarz would be flipped to Edmonton for Cam Talbot. It took a while, but Stolarz finally became a good goalie with Anaheim. This past season, he became, ironically, the backup to Bobrovsky, and posted a 2.03 GAA and a .925 SV%.

Bobrovsky took off in Columbus, winning a Vezina Trophy in his first season while Bryzgalov was being laughed out of town. Four years later, he won his second Vezina. He was a two-time all-star on a Blue Jackets team, headed by John Tortorella, that was playing above its talent level. However, with Bobtovsky and Tortorella, the team went to three straight playoff runs, though only going to the second round once. Bobrovsky was tagged with the "can't win the big one label", just as he had had in Philadelphia.

He signed a lucrative seven-year, $70 million contract, leaving CBJ for Miami. At the time, it was the most money awarded to a goalie. In his first three seasons, the Panthers were either bounced in the first or second round. However, last year, he was a key figure in their surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final. This year, Bobrovsky again has found his mojo and has been shutting down all opponents. There is a good chance that Florida could bring the Stanley Cup to South Beach. He tied for the NHL lead with six shutouts this year and currently has added two more during the playoffs.

And here we sit as Flyers fans. We gave up on a guy who is now 35, has won two Vezina Trophies, is a two-time All-Star, and could win a Stanley Cup. Since then, we've seen this team throw out: Bryzgalov, Boucher, Leighton, Emery, Stolarz, Talbot, Steve Mason, Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp, Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott, Alex Lyon, Petr Mrazek, Carter Hart, Calvin Pickard, Mike McKenna, Martin Jones, Felix Sandstrom, Cal Petersen, and Sam Ersson. Wow. What a list. Meanwhile, Bobrovsky has two more years left on his contract in Florida.

You never know who will become a star player or a bust. You never know who could become a hall of famer or a nobody, forgotten by all but the most rabid hockey fans. And this is why watching the Stanley Cup is painful. Had the stars aligned differently, maybe Bobrovsky would've been in the net while Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and others led the Flyers to Stanley Cup victories. Alas, we'll never know.

In the meantime, the goalie we've been hoping for still eludes us. Hart is mired in grave legal troubles and will likely not be re-signed by the Flyers. Perhaps Ersson is a Bobrosky waiting to happen. Maybe one of the other prospects (Ivan Fedotov, Carson Bjarnason, Yegor Zavragin, or Alexei Kolosov) could fill that role. Or, the search could continue. It's not fair that the Rangers can transition seamlessly from Henrik Lundqvist to Igor Shesterkin. Yet, that's how it goes sometimes.