The need for a number one goaltender has become an eternal lament in Philadelphia. Their collection of kids and backups was okay in the first round of the post-season, but collapsed in a heap against the Bruins, solidifying in everyone’s minds the obvious truth: the Flyers goaltending sucks! Now for the ninth year in a row, Philly will apparently be searching for a true-blue number one ‘tender come July 1.
That said, it’s interesting to contrast the perception of Sergei Bobrovsky in Philadelphia versus that of Corey Crawford in Chicago. Both were unproven rookies heading into the season who basically usurped older incumbents. Bobrovsky appeared in 54 games for the Flyers, Crawford in 57 for the Hawks. The former managed a .915 SV%, the latter a .917. Their ES save rates were even closer: .924 for Crawford and .923 for Bobrovsky. Probably the only real difference between the two this season was their playoff performances: Crawford played well in 7 games (.927 SV%) while Bobrovsky struggled in his six appearances (.877 SV%). Of course, a six to seven game sample is hardly anything worth considering when it comes to puck-stoppers. Ilya Bryzgalov’s SV% was .878 this post-season for example.
And yet, folks in Chicago are calling Crawford a legit calder candidate, while there are others suggesting Philly should consider trading major pieces like Jeff Carter to fill the Flyers apparent “goaltending void”. The difference in perception and proscription is dramatic given how small the difference between the two ‘tenders results were this past season.
This goes to show how powerfully narratives and expectations can influence analysis. The Flyers on-going lack of an established, celebrated starting goaltender continues to grow and add momentum. It’s become the reason the Flyers “can’t win it all”: nevermind that the club made the Stanley Cup finals with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in 2010. And nevermind a number of recent Cup champions have won it all with…less than elite names between the pipes. Philly needs a goaltender. They always need a goaltender.
For the record, I think the Flyers would do well to acquire another decent puck-stopper given how little they know about Bobrvosky’s true talent: one decent season isn’t enough to get a true read of any players abilities, especially a goaltenders – but that’s no less true in Chicago as well. No one in their right mind would claim the Blackhawks should trade Patrick Sharp for Ilya Bryzgalov though.