Takes Two To Tango? Who Will Be The Philadelphia Flyers Playoff Saver?

Joe IannelloAnalyst IIIFebruary 20, 2011

Takes Two To Tango? Who Will Be The Philadelphia Flyers Playoff Saver?

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    How would the Flyers respond this season after such a devastating loss last season.

    The Flyers have responded from their Stanley Cup loss last season to the Chicago Blackhawks in impressive fashion by posting a Eastern Conference leading 39-15-5 record, good for 83 points. 

    They have opened up an eight-point lead in the Eastern Conference and do not show any signs of slowing down any time soon.

    They are even deeper on offense and defense than the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

    The orange and black now feature three potent scoring lines that all can be the No. 1 line on any given night.

    They have an amazing 10 different players who have scored at least 10 goals. They have 13 different players with at least 20 points. They have 17 players who are plus players this season.

    Long story short, the Flyers can put the puck in the net, and with the addition of Kris Versteeg, the scoring will continue in bunches.

    The Flyers added Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros to an already solid defense to form the most dominating shut down group in the entire NHL.

    The Flyers seemed poise to run away with the Eastern Conference, and if healthy, they seemingly have little to no question marks.

    Except in net.

    Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have played tremendous all season, and Flyer Nation has wondered all season and still received no answer: Who will be the guy in the playoffs, Boosh, Bob or both?

    Here are five reasons for each guy on why they should be in net during the Chase for the Cup.

Reason 1 For Boucher: Experience

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    If you have gone to a Flyers game over the past decade, there is a good chance you have taken part in the "Booooosh" chant.

    Boucher has played over 300 games during his 11-year career. He has amassed over 100 career victories while posting a solid 2.68 GAA.

    Boucher has also started in 34 playoff games where he improved his career GAA to 2.20. He has been far from a liability during his playoff career, evidenced by his .913 save percentage.

    The Stanley Cup playoffs are a month-long grind that can take a mental toll on any player, let alone a rookie. Boucher has led teams into the playoffs before, and that experience could be crucial for the Flyers moving forward.

Reason 1 For Bob: Young Guns Have Fared Well

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    Don't think that just because Bob has not been in the playoffs before automatically means he will struggle.

    Flyers fans know all too well how successful Antii Niemi was in last year's playoffs. In his first NHL playoffs, Niemi went 16-6 with a 2.63 GAA and .910 SV%.

    In 39 regular-season games last year, Niemi went 26-7 with a 2.24 GAA.

    In 37 regular-season games thus far, Bobrovsky's record is 23-9 with a 2.44 GAA. Pretty similar.

    Peter Laviolette and Co. need to think back to just last year if they have any doubts whether a playoff rookie can succeed in net.

Reason 2 For Boucher: Career Year?

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    Brian Boucher is having the best season of his career. He is 14-6 with a 2.27 GAA. His SV% is the best it has ever been in his 11-year career at .920.

    Coach Laviolette has been riding whichever goalie has the hot hand all season long. With Boucher having a career year, will he ride his hot goalie right into the playoffs?

Reason 2 For Bob: Can Carry The Load

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    As previously mentioned, the Flyers are leading the Eastern Conference by eight points and are looking to lock up the President's Trophy.

    Bob has started 37 games thus far to Boucher's 24. Columnists have pointed to a few starts this season where Bobrovsky has looked shaky, but he has been extremely solid as a whole.

    The playoffs are a grind where a goalie can not be expected to be spectacular every game. Bob has shown the maturity thus far to be able to bounce back from a sub-par effort.

    Bob has been by majority, the goalie who has carried the No. 1 team in the conference. Sergei's supporters will say:

    Let Bob finish the job!

Reason 3 For Boucher: May Be His Last Chance

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    How many times throughout sports history have we heard a player say, "It may be my last shot, I'll give it my all."

    While Boucher is under contract for another season, realistically he may never have another shot like the present.

    He is having the best season of his career and confidence in him has never been higher. Peter Laviolette has started to lean on Bouch in the more meaningful games as of late, but will this continue into the playoffs?

    Something has to be said for the way Boucher has played. He obviously is playing with a ton of confidence and poise, and a veteran who has seen it all and is playing each game like it's his last could be a lethal combination.

Reason 3 For Bob: Less Wear and Tear

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    Anyone who watches hockey on a regular basis knows how tough those guys really are. An 82-game season for a sport where blood and stitches are as regular as beer and cracker jacks at a baseball game is brutal.

    The utmost respect has to be given to the veterans of the sport who have played through pain, injuries and illness. Boucher has done all of this for the past 11 seasons. His body has undoubtedly gone through its bumps and bruises.

    Bob, on the other hand, is the youngest goalie to ever start in net for the Flyers. At 21 years old, one may think that he may be the fresher of the two even while playing more games.

    Bob has shown his elasticity and flexibility throughout the season, and his saves have only gotten more impressive as it has gone on. Is he just getting warmed up, while the other is getting worn down?

Reason 4 For Boucher: They Owe It To Him

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    Boucher stepped in during last year's playoffs and played wonderfully. He went down with a knee injury against the Boston Bruins, and the rest was history.

    Would the Flyers have had a better chance against the Blackhawks with Boucher in net? Maybe, maybe not.

    With Boucher having such a solid season, there seems to be more and more fans each day clamoring for the Boosh.

    It seems like a pretty fair bet that Bob will have many more opportunities to lead the Flyers through the playoffs, so why not let Boucher have one last shot?

    The seasoned veteran deserves the right to lead his team into the playoffs over a 21-year-old protege right?

    Maybe, maybe not.

Reason 4 For Bob: More Talent

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    Sergei Bobrovsky has made some of the best saves of the season in his first year in the NHL. Flyers fans have heard his name as a potential starter for this year's team.

    Scouts have raved about his potential, and he has shown that he can make incredible saves look easy.

    Don't you want the player with more talent on the ice?

    A spectacular save in hockey is a momentum changer that can turn the tide of a game.

    For a team like the Flyers who have periods of play where they seem asleep, Bob may be the alarm clock that they need in their pursuit of the Cup.

Reason 5 For Boucher: Make The Saves That Should Be Saved

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    Brian Boucher has perhaps the greatest save I have ever seen during the 2000 playoffs. But at this point in his career, the potential to make an amazing save probably would go to Bobrovsky.

    The Flyers do not Boosh to make amazing saves, they need him to be solid. Behind the best defense and best team in the NHL, Boosh has proven that he can make the necessary saves.

    Flyers fans may want a guy in net come playoff time who has the lesser chance of giving up a "soft" goal. After watching Patrick Kane's "pass" from an impossible angle win the cup for the Blackhawks, a guy who makes the routine saves look easy (which they should) sounds great.

Reason 5 For Bob: What Am I Getting Myself Into?

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    Mike Richards was asked following the Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks about the Flyers playoff run. He replied, "It was the hardest thing I've ever done."

    Brian Boucher has the playoff experience, but he also has experienced the pressure of playing goalie in a hockey-crazed city who desperately wants the cup back on Broad Street.

    Sergei Bobrovsky needs a translator as he does not understand English.

    While it is a given that Bob will understand the importance of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, his lack of experience may benefit him in that he is not nervous.

    Bob has started more games than Boucher this season and has put together a Rookie of the Year campaign. The kid is obviously extremely confident in his abilities. So confident that he does not have to worry about the fact that Philly has not won Lord Stanley since the days of the Broad Street Bullies.

    Can he lead the Flyers back to the Cup? Hey, maybe the kid doesn't know any better.

The Verdict

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    Peter Laviolette will ride whichever goalie is playing his best into the playoffs. He has done it thus far, and his team is running away with the Eastern Conference.

    You can be sure that Laviolette will have no problem switching goaltenders in the middle of a playoff series. After all, he has done it not so long ago.

    Are you as concerned as I am, Philadelphia?

    After years of watching Martin Brodeur be the constant in the New Jersey Devils' three Stanley Cups, I have craved for a goaltender who the franchise can build their team around.

    It seems like Sergei Bobrovsky is that guy. The guy to be the starting goaltender of the Flyers for the next decade.

    So in that regard, he seems like the logical choice to start his playoff resume this season.

    In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."

    Brian Boucher has proven this season that he will make the save if he sees the puck. With the Flyers defense bolstering six guys who are excellent, the team will win if they get solid play out of their goalie.

    Boucher has the playoff experience and the trust of his teammates.

    He is having the most outstanding season of his career.

    He is the guy who should lead the Flyers back to the top of the hockey world.

    Besides, the sound of 20,000 fans yelling "BOOOOOOOSH" every time a save is made has to count for something right?

    I'm a realist, so talk to me in 23 games and see how many times my mind has changed.

    Whichever guy is in net (maybe both) for the 2011 playoffs, Flyers fan get ready for another parade down Broad Street.