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.

Comments (11)

  1. As a fan of both of these teams I agree 100% with this assessment. I can’t understand what is going on with the Flyers re. Bob. I didn’t get sending him to the press box or why Jeff Reese is now telling reporters that Bob is 2-3 years away from being a starter when he was already one this season.

  2. “And nevermind a number of recent Cup champions have won it all with…less than elite names between the pipes.”

    Just say Niemi and Osgood, Kent. We won’t frown upon you.

  3. The difference is how they finished the season, not just the playoffs. From February 1 and on (including the playoffs), Bobrovsky went 7-9-5 with a 2.89 GAA and .903 save percentage. During that same time, Crawford went 20-12-4 with a 2.37 GAA and .918 save percentage (including starting every single game from February 16th to Game 7 in the first round). Bobrovsky faded as the year went on and Crawford came up huge when the Hawks made their playoff push, not to mention a fantastic playoff series.

    One year does not prove anything, but there’s deservedly much more optimism surrounding Crawford because he showed he can be counted on when needed most. The same can’t be said of Bobrovsky.

  4. So then has Crawford shown he should be benched to start the season?

  5. Bobrovsky had a much much better team skating in front of him. the playoffs just futher Crawfords case. .927% against the presidents trophy winners? kid basically stole game 6 and is a damn fine goalie.

  6. The flyers in the beginning of the season were hot, Bob and Boosh had great numbers. Hell, they even went into Detroit and took the game 3-2, they never beat Detroit! Then, as the team struggled after the all-star game, everyone’s numbers came down. The forwards flopped, the defense crumbled and the goalies paid for it. They could’ve had any goalie in the league playing for them and still lost as much as they did. I’m happy as hell they even made it to the semi-finals.

    Behind a team with a well disciplined game plan, any goalie can thrive. (look at DC and the 3 headed monster in net). So that’s the name of the game in Philly. They were playing smart hockey in the beginning of the year, then they got cocky and tried to be too pretty and fancy instead of sticking to the basics. They constantly thought they could come back from 2, 3 even 4 goal deficits (and sometimes did, which didn’t help) and lost too many games to recover their confidence/swagger/reputation as an elite team.

    I personally believe Bob is a little ahead of his time, one or two more years and he’ll be a go-to guy. The problem is, will the team be ready for him when that time comes. Look at Cechmanik, he had great numbers every year but didn’t have a solid team to play in front of him. Now that they have a solid team Lavvy needs to whip their asses into shape. Or the goalie carousel will be rejoined with the coaching carousel

  7. You really can’t compare Crawford and BoB. Crawford was groomed right. He took time to get his flaws in order then took over. Bob on the other hand was rushed because he played well enough and leighton was hurt. Bob came to a new country a new type of hockey and did well. He has a ton of flaws in his game that he had to learn in the fly unlike Crawford. BoB is at least a year or two away.

  8. I agree with Fran — these two goalies have had different levels of preparation. Crawford is older and had much more time to develop in the AHL before his arrival on the scene, whereas the Flyers rushed Bobrovsky from the KHL. Their goalie coach said he’s not ready for the starter role yet. In retrospect, that was a lot to demand from a 22 year old in his first season here.

    Should they trade Carter? Heck no. But is Crawford better qualified to take over as a #1 than Bobrovsky is? At this point in time, I’d say yes.

    Bob has a lot of talent. They just need to let him develop at the right pace.

  9. Ziggy: That’s all narrative. Those sample sizes don’t prove very much. Hell, one season doesn’t prove much. But to say “the ending justifies the optimism” is still buying into that narrative; the cliche is the Flyers lack goaltending when it matters, after all (checking Boucer’s numbers this postseason might suprise some people in that respect, as he was great).

    Chris: Bobrovsky’s team wasn’t that much better if we’re looking at possession stats. Chicago controlled play most of the year. They were probably the second or third best team in the conference.

    Fran: Of course he’s green. and maybe he’s two or three years away from being a consistently elite goaltender, if that’s what his talent level is. But those are rare, and he already gave the Flyers 50+ games of good goaltending, so he’s capable of strong NHL play.

  10. Snevik: Of course it’s a small sample size, and I expected him to regress from his early numbers, but how can you be sure that everything that happened in the last half of the season is the result of normal variance? He had 50+ starts, far more than he’d ever had in the KHL. Pretty unknown territory. I don’t know that you can entirely dismiss the idea that they over-taxed him.

  11. [...] mid-game goaltending changes that made the Flyers’ net look like a game of musical chairs.As our own Kent Wilson put it: “Their collection of kids and backups was okay in the first round of the post-season, but [...]

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