Philadelphia Flyers: Timing Is Right To Roll the Dice on Sergei Bobrovsky

Michael BergenContributor IOctober 5, 2010

ST PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers plays against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on September 25, 2010 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Flyers defeated the Wild 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

I'm never one to "buy into the hype" of a flashy newcomer.

I would much rather wait it out and see what a player can bring to a team on a regular basis before pulling myself up onto the bandwagon.

But 22-year-old Russian goaltending prospect Sergei Bobrovsky has been nothing short of stellar during this preseason for the Philadelphia Flyers. In five appearances, he has posted an eye-popping 1.76 GAA and a more impressive .939 save percentage.

This is Bobrovsky's first season playing in North America, and many hockey experts have said that he would need at least a year in the AHL to get accustomed to the smaller rinks and more physical game played over here. I agreed, then we found out that incumbent starter Michael Leighton has a balky back that could keep him out of action for at least the first month of the season.

The options the Flyers were left with in net were 33-year-old veteran Brian Boucher, prospect Johan Backlund, and Bobrovsky.

With Leighton on the shelf and Backlund also injured, the Flyers decided to see what Bobrovsky had to offer. The 6-foot-2, 182-pound butterfly goalie showed glimpses of what the Flyers thought he could bring to the table when they signed him from the KHL.

He has a flashy glove hand, and his lateral quickness is striking.

His win-loss numbers in the KHL were inconsequential when you look at his other numbers: Goals against average under three and a save percentage over .900 in both of his full seasons there.


Look, we all like Boucher.

We all know what a good guy he is on and off the ice. What we also all know is that for as solid a goaltender as he can be, he is certainly not the kind of goalie that can lead a team to a Stanley Cup championship.

Boucher has had flashes of brilliance throughout his career: An impressive run for the Flyers in the 2000 playoffs and his shutout streak in Phoenix, to name a couple. But is he really the guy?

Not from where I stand.

The preseason is not the regular season, I know. Nobody is saying it is, but why not take a chance on this kid right now.

Back in 1986, the Flyers ran a relatively-unknown rookie out between the pipes on opening night in Ron Hextall. All he did that year was post career-highs in games played and wins (37) on his way to a Vezina Trophy.

He took the team to the brink of the Cup, losing in seven to the mighty Gretzkys. He also won the Conn Smythe and was named a First Team All-Star.

Will Bobrovsky have that same level of success? Probably not, but the beauty of the situation is that nobody really knows for sure.

Throw this kid into the fire Thursday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate opening their new stadium. The time is right.

We already know what Boucher can do. Isn't it worth the risk to find out what Bobrovsky can do?

What's the downside? Worst-case scenario, you lose a couple of games at the onset of a grueling 82-game season.

The upside? Maybe you find the next Hextall, and in doing so, that next franchise goalie that we have been searching for since, well, Hextall.