Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Boucher makes his case

ST. LOUIS -- It's amazing how just six days can put an entirely different spin on the Flyers’ goaltending situation.

Boucher makes his case

Brian Boucher makes a blocker save on Jay McClement in the first period on Saturday.
Brian Boucher makes a blocker save on Jay McClement in the first period on Saturday.

ST. LOUIS -- It's amazing how just six days can put an entirely different spin on the Flyers’ goaltending situation.

Last Sunday, Johan Backlund gave up 7 goals on 20 shots in the Flyers’ final preseason tune-up to officially cement Sergei Bobrovsky in what we thought would be the backup role to Brian Boucher.

On Thursday, the 22-year-old Bobrovsky shutout Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for two periods to open the new Consol Energy Center in his NHL debut.

On Friday, the Flyers announced that supposed starter Michael Leighton will be on the shelf for at least another six weeks as a result of surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.

That left Saturday night - when most expected Bobrovsky to pickup where he left off in Pittsburgh - for Brian Boucher to state his case for the starting job.

The result - a 2-1 overtime loss to the Blues in their home opener at the Scottrade Center - was not a win, but close. And Boucher left St. Louis no worse for the wear, even with a loss. He played every bit as well as new Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

“I thought he was really good,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “That last one [the game-winner in overtime] was a tough one. He was set on the first shot, we blocked it and it kicked right to someone coming in. ‘Boosh’ was great.”

It’s even possible to go as far as saying Boucher was more impressive than Halak, considering the fact that the Flyers spent nearly 14 of the game’s 60 minutes on the penalty kill.

The Flyers gave St. Louis 10 power play opportunities and Boucher kept them at bay for 9 of them. The Blues’ only goal in regulation came with a 5-on-3 advantage on the power play in the first period.

It was the most power play opportunities for a Flyers opponent since October 16, 2008 in Colorado, when they gave up 11 power play chances.

Boucher entered the game confident, despite being overlooked for the opening night start just two days earlier.

“I felt pretty good,” Boucher said. “You have to start somewhere. There were a lot of penalties, and not full power plays, too. It was a weird game. You’d get halfway through a penalty and there would be another.

“I would have liked to win. I thought I certainly played well enough to get the win.”

Danny Briere, who scored the Flyers’ lone goal, hit the cross-bar in overtime. His long rebound created an odd-man rush heading the other direction, which resulted in the game-winning goal.

“It would have been a totally different story,” Boucher said. “We could have won this game.”

Boucher said he tried not to put any extra pressure on himself, though he knew that his start would be judged against Bobrovsky’s impressive win over the Penguins. In all, Boucher stopped 23 of 25 shots.

“I need to just keep it the same as I always have in my career,” Boucher said. “My job is to give my team a chance to win, whether I get 10 starts in a row or 1 out of 10 starts. It doesn’t matter. Nothing changes on my end.

“I felt good about my camp and I just wanted to continue that.”

Now, for the third time in as many games, all eyes will be on Laviolette’s decision as to who to start when the Flyers’ Eastern Conference championship banner is unfurled on Monday night against Colorado.

Since Boucher’s play is what got the Flyers into the playoffs on that final day of the regular season - and carried them through the first round and a half - it would be fitting to have him in net for the club’s first banner unveiling since 2004.

But with Laviolette, you never know until you know.

“There’s really no need for me to compare them,” Laviolette said of his goaltenders. “Boosh was great. Both our goaltenders were great on the trip. They both played good games.”

NO FLOW ON THE MISSISSIPPI: With 10 penalty kills, there was little chance for the Flyers to get in an offensive rhythm.

That also forced Laviolette to juggle the lines. Scott Hartnell had 21 minutes in penalties, leaving a vacancy on his line for almost an entire period. James van Riemsdyk moved to play with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while Darroll Powe skated with Claude Giroux and Nikolay Zherdev.

“There was too much specialty teams to get in that type of flow,” Laviolette said. “We lost [Hartnell] for 19 minutes, so we were filling a spot there. I thought we played our best as the game went on. The more we played, the more we took control of it.”

75-PERCENT AIN’T BAD: The Flyers picked up 3 out of 4 points on the road trip.

“It’s tough, we let a point sit here,” Laviolette said. “There was a point on the line, down 1-0 heading into the third period, and we fought like heck to get it back.”

OVERTIME BLUES: Saturday night was the Flyers’ first overtime loss to the Blues in more than 20 years (5-4 OT loss, Jan. 4, 1990). Last year, Mika Pyorala (remember him) gave the Flyers a shootout win in their only matchup with St. Louis. The Flyers had won four straight overtime decisions in a row against St. Louis before this.

CLOCK WATCH: Nearly 8 out of Darroll Powe’s 12 minutes of ice time were on the penalty kill ... Jody Shelley played just 3:11 ... Oskars Bartulis skated for 10:11, by far the least of the 6 defensemen ... Dan Carcillo played 6:24, with only 2 shifts in the 2nd period and 1 in the 3rd period.

BUMPS AND BRUISES: James van Riemsdyk appeared to get his bell rung in the third period when he was boarded from behind, head first by David Perron, who received a penalty on the play. Van Riemsdyk hung in to finish the game and said he felt fine afterwards ... Chris Pronger did not play in his first return to St. Louis as a Flyer ... Matt Walker and Andreas Nodl were healthy scratches.

Thanks to all of those who chatted with me here on Philly.com during the game.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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