Better With Popcorn

Bobrovsky Shelters Goaltender Storm

The New Year did not start off the way Sergei Bobrovsky probably hoped it would.

Coming off an impressive performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was decided that Bobrovsky was going to be the starter of the biggest event of the regular season when the Philadelphia Flyers met the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic.

The young goaltender certainly deserved the opportunity.

He had stopped 24 of 26 against the Penguins, had won three consecutive starts and had only allowed seven goals in his four most recent appearances.

Then came the Winter Classic.

With many of the fans still celebrating the Flyers second goal of the outdoor game, Bobrovsky was beaten by an unlikely source when Mike Rupp snuck a shot past the Russian goaltender’s glove.

It turned out to be the first of three unanswered goals by the Rangers (which included a second goal by Rupp), on way to defeating the Flyers for the third time this season.

With all of the attention focused on the other Russian goaltender on the Flyers roster, Bobrovsky sat for the team’s next two games, a home-and-home series, against the Ottawa Senators.

After Ilya Bryzgalov failed to earn back the confidence of his coach, it was Bobrovsky who got the call Tuesday night in the team’s final game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes.

It turned out to be the right decision.

Although he held the Hurricanes scoreless in the first, Bobrovsky had a difficult time tracking pucks in the opening period.

His rebound control was poor and several opportunities were left waiting in the slot. Thanks to Philadelphia defenders and poor positional play by the Hurricanes, Bobrovsky managed to turn away all 11 shots (only three of which were actual scoring chances).

In the second period, Carolina tied the game during a power play when Jerome Samson scored his first career NHL goal.

The scoring play was the result of an offensive faceoff draw by Carolina. With the Hurricanes able to take two point-blank shots against Bobrovsky, Samson was left wide open with a picture perfect shot.

Despite the lone goal, the young goaltender looked strong and stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced in the period.

His play proved strongest in the final period.

After Sean Couturier regained the Flyers lead, it was up to Bobrovsky to shut the game down. With several Carolina attacks swarming his goal, the young goaltender seamlessly turned away every opportunity the Hurricanes generated in the third.

The most impressive of which came a little after the midway mark of the period, when the Hurricanes were attacking right up against the Philadelphia goalmouth. Bobrovsky turned away second and third chance opportunities in order to keep the Flyers one goal lead intact.

Based upon head coach Peter Laviolette’s past statements, Bobrovsky will undoubtedly be the starter in Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders.

His performance on Tuesday was impressive and was a huge component in why the Flyers were able to walk away with the win.

With that being said, it isn’t wise to throw Bryzgalov under the bus because of Bobrovsky’s strong play. With two talented goaltenders on the roster, it should be celebrated that the team has someone else to turn to when the other is struggling.

In addition, Bobrovsky has some weaknesses (rebound control and puck tracking most notably) that other teams may exploit more so than the Hurricanes did.

At the end of the day, Bobrovsky has been winning and that is the only thing that really matters.

Until proven otherwise, it seems as though he will be given an opportunity to display why he deserves more playing time in the future.

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