Inside the Flyers: Three goalies, one big problem for Flyers

Posted: January 02, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. - In a perfect situation, the Flyers would have two top-notch goalies on their roster, and a minor-league prospect ready to be promoted if there was an injury.

In that scenario, everyone gets lots of work in practice - and gets enough game action to stay sharp.

But because of some unexpected developments - Michael Leighton's requiring back surgery in October, and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky's shining as his replacement - the Flyers have three goalies on their roster.

It's far from ideal. It's difficult for them to get in as much work. It's impossible for them to all get enough playing time to be on top of their game.

The Flyers don't like it, but they are trying to make the best of it.

They can't send Leighton or Brian Boucher to the minors because another team could claim them on waivers. They could send Bobrovsky to the Phantoms, but that seems illogical because he has shown he belongs here (see his excellent numbers) and it risks shattering his confidence.

As it stands, Bobrovsky's confidence is probably shaky because of so much inactivity lately.

No Russian translators have been around the team on its current road trip, so it's impossible to gauge how "Bob" feels about playing so sparingly in recent weeks.

First, he sat for a while because Boucher was playing so brilliantly.

In Los Angeles on Thursday, he sat because the Flyers gave Leighton his first start of the season.

Bobrovsky, 22, got just his third start in nine games Friday in a 5-2 loss to Anaheim. He has a 15-6-3 record, a 2.57 goals-against average, and .915 save percentage.

From here, the Flyers are treading dangerous territory. If they continue to play Bobrovsky sparingly, you wonder if he will stop believing in himself.

"It's always a concern," goalie coach Jeff Reese said. ". . . He's a young goalie who is finding himself, and there will be bumps in the road. It's a learning process, and that's what he's going through now. Everybody goes through it."

They do, but for Bobrovsky, who is alone in a new country, not playing much has to be extra difficult. The rink is his sanctuary. The kid is so focused, so diligent about working longer than anyone.

In short, he needs to be playing. A lot.

Does Laviolette worry about Bobrovsky losing the mojo he had earlier in the season?

"I don't want to say worry, but you try to manage everything. There are things that are out of your control," he said. "Right now we have three goaltenders. It's not impossible to manage. Our goaltenders have to work hard, stay sharp, and if you get the opportunity, make the most of it because there are two good goaltenders waiting.

"There's not a lot of times you have to juggle three," Laviolette added, "but we do right now and we have to manage it the best we can."

The Flyers have used Bobrovsky oddly. They went from playing him too much - remember when he made 12 straight starts earlier this season? - to hardly playing him.

Juggling three goalies is not easy, so perhaps Leighton will be showcased to set up a deal that will leave Bobrovsky and Boucher as the Flyers' tandem. Leighton played Thursday (he looked rusty) because he needs work, and if he whets the appetite of another team, well, that's not such a bad thing.

"It's all about timing. When someone has a goalie go down, I'm sure our phone will start ringing," said a Flyers official. "Three goalies just don't work, long-term. It's just not good."

Neither is having Bobrovsky go a long time between starts. This is a player who was the NHL's rookie of the month in November, a player who was among the NHL leaders in most categories in the first two months, a player who is a major part of the franchise's future.

He also needs to be made a major part of the present.


Inside the Flyers:

Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog, "Broad Street Bull," at http://go.philly.com/bsb.

Blog response of the week

Subject: Leighton and Richards vs. Kings.

10:53 a.m., 12/31/2010

By bpkrier

Leighton desperately needs to work on his positioning. The Kings knew to shoot at his five-hole, aka the Patrick Kane expressway, and he let in some weak ones in the first period. Richards, on the other hand, looked like a beast out there and I loved seeing him get under Bernier's skin.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi

at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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