The Flyers have made some major trades in recent years - dealing Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and James van Riemsdyk, among others - but a less talked-about move may come back to haunt them.
When general manager Paul Holmgren sent backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for three draft picks last June, not many eyebrows were raised. Bobrovsky had seen little time behind Ilya Bryzgalov.
But with the strike-shortened season more than halfway over, Bobrovsky has emerged as the NHL’s hottest goaltender.
On Monday, the 24-year-old Russian was named the league’s top star of the week after going 4-0 with a 0.77 goals-against average and .972 save percentage.
The Flyers received second- (promising goalie Anthony Stolarz) and fourth-round (left winger Taylor Leier) draft selections last June for Bobrovsky. They also acquired a fourth-rounder in the 2013 draft.
Bobrovsky, known for his quick post-to-post moves, has an 8-6-3 record with a 2.27 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
Bryzgalov, 32, is 12-11-1 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
Bobrovsky has stopped five of six shots in shootouts this season, while Bryzgalov has no saves in two shootout attempts.
After Bobrovsky’s terrific rookie season with the Flyers - he had 28-13-8 record, 2.59 goals-against average, and .915 save percentage in 54 games - he struggled (3.02, .899) while starting 25 games as Bryzgalov’s understudy last year.
This season, Bryzgalov has started 25 of 27 games, including the last 11. He has looked fatigued lately.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million deal before last season, thrives when he gets lots of work. But if the Flyers had a more dependable backup - such as Bobrovsky - one wonders if Bryzgalov would have been used less frequently and looked fresher in games.
Meanwhile, Bryzgalov and his teammates hope their 3-2 win over lowly Buffalo on Sunday was a baby step toward getting into a playoff spot.
For that to happen, they are going to have to learn how to win on the road. The Flyers lead the league in a dubious category - most road losses. They are just 4-10 away from the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s a surprising turnaround because last season, with a similar team, the Flyers finished tied for the most road victories in the NHL, compiling a 25-13-3 record.
They played with a physical edge in Sunday’s win over the visiting Sabres, and they will need to carry it into Newark Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils, one of the teams they are chasing in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
The Devils (12-9-5), who are seventh in the East, are four points ahead of the 11th-place Flyers (12-14-1) and have a game in hand.
The teams will also meet Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We are not in the position to take games off or weeks off,” Bryzgalov said. “For us, every game is do or die pretty much.”
Forward Brayden Schenn agreed.
“Our playoff lives are on the line right now, and it’s going to take a lot to climb back in it,” he said. “We believe in this room that we can. And we still have a lot of hockey to be played. The schedule is not that hard in the next two weeks, so it’s good time for practice time, a little bit of rest and some games mixed in.”
The Flyers did not practice Monday, which started a span in which they play just three games over a 13-day stretch.
The Flyers’ road record includes 3-0 and 5-3 losses in New Jersey, both against goalie Martin Brodeur, who hasn’t played since Feb. 21 because of a bad back. The Devils have slumped in his absence.
New Jersey’s Johan Hedberg (4-7-2, 2.97, .879) is expected to get the call again on Wednesday.
McGinn to Phantoms. The Flyers sent winger Tye McGinn to Adirondack so he can get back into form after having orbital-bone surgery.
Contact Sam Carchidi at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.