With five games remaining in the regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers are in a dogfight for a playoff spot. As it stands right now, they possess the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, and would face the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.
Should the Flyers make the playoffs, the biggest question surrounding the Orange 'n' Black is who will be the starting goaltender for the first round? Michael Leighton could return for the second round, but all signs are pointing towards an early exit.
Who will start in net for the Flyers in the first round? Will it be the struggling Brian Boucher, who has some playoff experience, or will the Flyers try rookie Johan Backlund, seeing if he can spark a first-round series win?
The Flyers have nothing to lose with how big of a nightmare this season has been for them, especially at the goaltending position. Philadelphia has lost two starting goalies, and recycled six goalies just to get through the season. Add one more to the list when Sebastien Caron plays a game.
Therefore, the Flyers should give the starting duties to Backlund—should his groin hold up—for the playoffs.
Backlund has only one NHL game under his belt in his first year playing in North America, but has appeared in 41 games with the Flyers' AHL affiliate, Adirondack Phantoms. In the AHL, Backlund was 21-17 with a 2.79 GAA and a .906 save percentage.
The Flyers gave him the start against the Pens in Pittsburgh last weekend in which they lost 4-1, but Backlund only played 40 minutes before exiting due to his groin injury. Backlund played very well for a rookie, allowing two goals on 24 shots.
I'm not going to say that Backlund is the solution for the Flyers' goalie problems, but you have a better chance to win with him than you do Boucher, who has absolutely no confidence whatsoever. With Boucher already not having any confidence, signing Caron sure isn't going to help it either.
If Peter Laviolette continues to roll with Boucher, the Flyers will be watching the playoffs from their living rooms rather than participating. It is better to make the postseason than miss it, especially with the Flyers, who have no picks in the first two rounds this coming draft.
Going into the playoffs, it may be wise to go with Backlund with the thinking that he could win you a playoff series. It's not a strategy that hasn't been used before, matter of fact teams have had success with this theory in years past.
You could look at the Washington Capitals and Semyon Varlamov last year when the Capitals came back from a 3-1 deficit against the New York Rangers once they gave Varlamov the nod instead of Jose Theodore.
Whatever route the Flyers choose to go, they have to get there first. Once Backlund is healthy enough to play, he should start. Boucher is rattled, and will not discover his confidence in time to get the Flyers to the postseason. It's time to turn to someone else, whether it's Caron or Backlund.
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