The Philadelphia Flyers sit atop the Eastern Conference standings and people are still questioning the validity of the goaltending situation for the team.
With no sure No. 1 goaltender, the Flyers look to use a tandem in net until the strategy proves futile.
Moving toward the playoffs, the goaltending situation isn’t any closer to being solved now than it was at the beginning of the season.
“I think it’s better than sitting for 15 games; it keeps both of us sharp, keeps both of us engaged,” Brian Boucher said. “And then I guess come playoff time if you want to make a decision to go with one guy, then the other guy’s still sharp.”
After the playoff success last season, it looked as if Michael Leighton was the sure No. 1 coming into this season.
An offseason surgery kept him out of commission for the beginning of the season and the battle for the starting job was on.
The Flyers had two candidates for the starting job: veteran journeyman Brian Boucher and Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Boucher knew the team and the city and it was obvious that he would be the lead candidate to be the starter as the season began.
Who should the starter be for the playoffs?
It wasn’t until training camp that the Flyers realized they had a young star in rookie Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky had come to America just weeks before and didn’t speak a word of English. Once in net, though, he looked as comfortable as Boucher.
The battle for the starting job raged through the preseason and a clear winner was never proclaimed.
As the season started, head coach Peter Laviolette said that he would play the hot hand and he has held true to his word.
"We talk about a lot of things when we talk about picking a goaltender," Laviolette said Tuesday. "Sometimes we factor in the style of the team we're playing. Sometimes we factor in the goalie's past record against a team. Sometimes we factor in the previous performance of our goaltenders. Sometimes it's even practice that might determine who we go to. It changes from game to game."
Both goaltenders have played well and each has made a big impact on the success of the Flyers this season.
So far this season, the tandem ranks eighth in the league in goals against average with just over 2.5 goals allowed per game.
While neither goaltender has been the definitive No. 1, both have performed tremendously well.
Boucher is 15-7-2 this season with a goals against average of 2.33 and a save percentage of .919. His goals against average ranks him eighth in the NHL while his save percentage ranks him 13th in the league.
As well as Boucher has played, as strong a case can be made for rookie Sergei Bobrovsky to start come playoff time.
Bobrovsky is 24-9-4 this year and leads all rookie goaltenders in wins. With a goals-against average of 2.46 and a save percentage of .918, Bob has been amazing this year and ranks second among rookies in both categories.
Whoever Peter Laviolette decides to start the playoffs with as his No. 1 goaltender, the fans will know that the eventual winner will be well qualified for the job. If for any reason the starter can’t play or doesn’t play well, there is a more than suitable backup ready to get in net.
That has to be a good feeling for the Flyers management and the fans.