Older, wiser Boucher grateful for chance to play with Flyers

Brian Boucher says he has changed his mindset and doesn't stress out about his job anymore.
Brian Boucher says he has changed his mindset and doesn't stress out about his job anymore.
Posted: January 08, 2011

BRIAN BOUCHER has found his Zen.

On the ice, Boucher has helped push the Flyers to the top of the Eastern Conference with an 8-1-1 record over his last 10 starts. Off the ice, Boucher has taken up a mentoring role with rookie partner Sergei Bobrovsky - promoting a healthy goalie-to-goalie relationship that isn't always the norm in the NHL.

Watching Bobrovsky, a 22-year-old undrafted and unheralded rookie, beat you out for the Opening Night starting job would have thrown most veterans over the edge. Not Boucher, who acknowledged that he probably would have struggled to come to grips with the decision earlier in his career.

"Now, as an older player, I think that I've been able to tell myself that I've played a long time, I know that I'm capable and I know the mindset that I need to have to play at that level," Boucher said. "Being stressed out isn't a way to achieve that."

Boucher, now 34, questioned many decisions earlier in his career, including a stressful relationship with partner Roman Cechmanek, which partially led to a trade to Phoenix from the Flyers in 2002.

"It was like 2 or 3 years there where my career went sideways and you're questioning things," Boucher explain. "Then I had shoulder surgery one offseason and I couldn't get a job. I came back here to the Phantoms [in 2007] with a goal in mind to get back to the NHL.

"You just dig deep. I didn't know where I would go in the NHL, but San Jose ended up picking me up. And Paul Holmgren gave me a chance to play for the Phantoms when he could've played prospects. He did me a huge favor. I'm thankful for all those opportunities."

The fact that Boucher is thankful to still be playing is what adds to his comfort on the ice, not his panic. He has grown as both a player and a person. A big part of Boucher's value - when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer - is often unseen in the locker room. And he will readily tell you that he is a better goaltender because of it.

"I think I have a lot to offer, on and off the ice," Boucher said. "I feel like I bring a lot more now than when I was younger. I think I'm a more rounded teammate and a professional and I believe in all of those things.

"I look back to my time when I was 22 or 23, I had John Vanbiesbrouck. 'Beezer' was fantastic to me. I had my best year when he was my partner, due in large part to the fact that he was supportive of me and helped me with things."

Now, Boucher is paying it forward with Bobrovsky.

"There is a bit of a language barrier for me and Bob," Boucher said. "But we can communicate here and there. But I want to help him. He's an enthusiastic kid who has done a great job for us. I think that's part of me being older and more mature and being accepting of the role that I've been put in. Obviously, I don't know any Russian. Maybe I should work on that."

All-Star scenario

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will be one of the co-head coaches of one of the NHL's All-Star teams if the Flyers pick up at least one point today vs. the Devils.

The NHL named Chicago coach Joel Quenneville as the bench boss for one squad by virtue of capturing the Stanley Cup last June. Two other coaches, the leader in points of each conference through today's games, will be co-head coaches of the other team.

Players will be assigned to each team through a "fantasy draft" on Jan. 28.

Laviolette, who has never coached in an All-Star Game, can also clinch with a Penguins loss tonight. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma can qualify with a win against Minnesota and a Flyers regulation loss.

"I want to win [against the Devils]," Laviolette said, "but not for those reasons."

Slap shots

Still nursing a groin injury, winger Nik Zherdev returned to practice yesterday but still figures to be a scratch this afternoon against New Jersey . . . Defenseman Matt Walker, who had hip surgery on Dec. 16, also returned to practice in a yellow noncontact jersey. Walker has yet to play a game for the Flyers this season . . . Today is the Flyers' only home game in the middle of a 10-game stretch. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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