Have I said the future is bright in net for the Philadelphia Flyers? Well, maybe I have, but let me reiterate it again. If all things go as planned, the Flyers have nothing to worry about in terms of goaltending beyond this year.
Why's that? His name is Sergei Bobrovsky, the 22-year-old goalie signed out of Russia this offseason, who saw his first professional game action in North America against the New Jersey Devils in the Flyers 4-3 shootout victory in their preseason opener.
Bobrovsky was excellent as he stopped all seven shots he faced during the third period, and overtime while turning away three of the Devils four shooters in the shootout. Not being tested until about midway through the third, Bobrovsky had four stellar saves.
On one occasion, "Bob" went from post-to-post to make a marvelous pad save on a cross-ice one-timing pass on Jamie Langenbrunner that would have been a goal on many goalies, including the Flyers starter Michael Leighton. Later in the third, Bobrovsky flashed his leather, stoning Devil Jason Arnott from point blank range.
The plan for Bobrovsky was to play only 20 minutes against Jersey, but thanks to a Danny Briere blast at 13:54 in the third period, that idea went out the window. Instead, it gave Bob even more of a chance to impress the Philadelphia crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.
In OT, neither team was able to score the game winner in sudden death, therefore leaving it up to a shootout to decide the contest, where Bobrovsky continued to shine.
New Jersey's first shooter, Langenbrunner, didn't post much of a challenge to the Russian netminder as he took a big slapper from the high slot in which Bob easily saved.
The next shooter was Patrik Elias, who posed somewhat of a harder test but was once again turned away by Bobrovsky. With the game on the line after Claude Giroux scored on a nifty backhander, Arnott snuck one by Bobrovsky, beating his five-hole to extend it to another round.
After Mike Richard beat Jersey's goalie Mike McKenna on his vintage backhander, Bobrovsky forced the Devils' final shooter Jacob Josefson to get in a little too deep, and making the save to win the game for the Orange 'n' the Black.
While nothing he did in the shootout was extraordinary, Bobrovsky was calm, cool and collect for a rookie goalie in his first NHL action.
Coming into training camp, I knew he had serious NHL potential and that the Flyers had something good going in net for the future, but I didn't know what to expect right away. It's not easy for a goalie to make the transition to a smaller rink where the players take shots from all angles.
What I witnessed on day one of camp was a goalie who looked like he belonged with the big boys rather than the Phantoms. Possessing a lightning quick glove, Bobrovsky is extremely fast from pipe-to-pipe and goes from butterfly to stand-up with ease.
And the 25 minutes plus the shootout against the Devils did nothing but impressed me even more.
The kid was sharp, and tracked the play very well. He didn't see many chances, but he came through with some huge saves. Something that I liked was that he seemed to know where the play was at all times.
It's evident the Flyers organization sees him as their future No. 1 goalie as they gave him a three-year entry level contract that will pay him a cap hit of $1.75 million per year. The only question is how far away is he from the NHL.
Many believe he is one full year in the AHL away from being the Flyers starting goalie, others think there's a chance he makes it to the team by the end of this coming season, but we all agree that he's going to be the Flyers starter sooner or later.
His childhood dream was to was to play in the NHL, then it became his goal. He's accomplished his goal, but by doing so, he's created himself an even bigger challenge.
Cracking the Flyers roster.
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