By Tom Dougherty | @FFTomDougherty
Here we are, two days before the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic, and we’re in an all too familiar situation involving the Philadelphia Flyers: who should start in net against the New York Rangers.
Is anyone really surprised? We are talking about the Philadelphia Flyers, a franchise notoriously known for its long history of goaltending woes.
But once again, we’re asking the same question we were asking last April, two seasons ago, five years ago, and a decade ago. Who will be between the pipes for the orange and black?
Does Peter Laviolette go with Mr. Universe, Siberian husky-loving Ilya Bryzgalov or the goalie who gives his team a better chance at winning right now in Sergei Bobrovsky? That’s a tough one, but the answer to that question is quite clear.
It becomes even clearer when the Flyers look at the standings and see the Rangers leading them by only two points with 46 games remaining. As The Hockey Guys Charlie O’Connor points out, if you take away all the media attention, China law and alumni homecomings, all that really exists is a game.
And it’s a game that if the Flyers do not win, might bite them later in the season.
In one corner, you have Bryzgalov, who signed a nine year, $51 million contract with Philadelphia in the summer. Three months into his deal, Bryzgalov has been living up the expectations we had for Jeff Hackett.
His numbers are scary awful. Despite winning 14 games, Bryzgalov owns a .890 save percentage and 3.01 goals against average. Holy smokes.
In Dec, the man who coined the phrase “humongous big” has a .861 save percentage. He allowed three or more goals in five of his 10 starts.
In the other corner, Bobrovsky stands as the all-around better goalie at this moment in time. The numbers prove it. The games prove it.
Bobrovsky has 14 games—11 starts, three relief appearances—under his belt this season. He’s 8-2-1 with 2.52 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
Bob closed out the calendar year with a terrific month of hockey where he posted 1.40 goals against average and a .947 save percentage.
Laviolette has proven to be a coach who goes with the hot hand. No matter the circumstances. In Pete philosophy, if you give him a better chance to win a hockey game, you’re getting the start or you’re getting more ice time.
He proved it last year when Bobrovsky started 11 straight games at one point, and the whole musical goaltenders in the playoffs. Laviolette cares about one thing and one thing only: winning.
In a game where two very important points are on the line, the Flyers must go with the guy who gives them the better chance of winning.
And that’s Bobrovsky.