The Mighty Boosh
Brian Boucher is not a flashy player. He doesn’t tend to make those how-in-the-world-did-he-do-that? saves, but Boucher - known as “Boosh” to Flyers fans - is a calming presence on his team, and, more often than not, tends to come through in the clutch. In a city where “goaltender controversy” is as popular (and frequent) a topic amongst sports fans as, say, cheesesteaks are amongst Philadelphian foodies, Brian Boucher has been an underrated constant this season and could be a huge piece in the Flyers’ playoff puzzle.
During the 2009-2010 season, Boucher’s record was less than stellar. In 33 appearances (26 starts), he posted a record of 9-18-3 with one shutout. In the playoffs, he went 6-6-0 in 12 appearances (10 starts) with one shutout. Due to an injury suffered in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins, Boucher’s opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs was robbed.
When rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky unexpectedly struggled in games one and two against the Buffalo Sabres in this year’s playoffs, the goaltender question arose in Philadelphia yet again. Bobrovsky gave up three goals on seven shots in Game 2. Boosh gave up one on twenty-one shots.
Though Boucher has much more playoff experience than Bobrovsky, he did not complain when Bobrovsky was originally named the starter for the playoffs. That’s typical of Boucher. He isn’t the type to complain, nor is he the type to draw much attention to himself . Once a game is over, no matter the outcome, he is always ready to clean the slate and move on to the next one.
So far, he has a 2-1 record in the 2010-2011 playoffs, with a 1.45 GAA and a save percentage of .954. His only loss came on Thursday night in a game where he held the Sabres to one goal on 29 shots. If the offense in front of him had produced, he very well may have gotten the win.
Looking back at this season, one can see that Boucher has not always received ample support from his offense. In the 34 games he has played in this year, Boucher has held the opponent to two goals or less on 23 different occasions. In six of those games, Boucher registered a loss or overtime loss. By comparison, Bob played in 54 games and held the opponent to two goals or less on 31 occasions, but registered the exact same number of losses and overtime losses as Boucher.
When evaluating a goalie’s stat line, the statistic known as “goals against average” or GAA is always included. The stat is compiled by taking the amount of games played and dividing that number by the amount of goals scored against. The amount of goals a team scored for their goalie is a stat that isn’t readily available or provided for the public by the NHL. After analyzing every game each goalie played in, one can see that Brian Boucher was given, on average, 2.5 goals per game by his team against a 2.42 GAA. In comparison, Bob was supported by 3.09 goals per game versus a 2.59 GAA.
On a deeper level, the Flyers scored four or more goals 23 times for Bob, where as they scored four or more goals just eight times for Boucher.
One of the most glaring differences between the two came from analyzing the power play success rate in front of each goaltender. The Flyers power play succeeded 18.42% of the time when Bob was in the net. In comparison, the unit was only successfully converted on 11.57% of their opportunities with the man-advantage when Boucher got the nod. The penalty kill unit was almost basically the same, with Boucher having a slightly better average at 83.8% compared to Bob 83.67%.
Boucher has proven throughout the year to be a competent and consistent goaltender. With some increased scoring from his teammates, Boucher could support a very promising postseason run.
Kim Pollock and Matthew Brigidi