Saturday, February 6, 2016

Flyers need to try Backlund in nets

Flyers need to try Backlund in nets



     UPDATE: Backlund indeed will get the start Saturday in Pittsburgh.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

     It’s time to take a chance and put untested Johan Backlund in the nets Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
     I know. I know. Last week, I said Brian Boucher wasn’t the Flyers’ biggest concern, that there were other areas _ such as the team’s inconsistent offense _ that were more pressing.
     Well, I was 1 for 2.
     The offense is still woefully inconsistent.
     But so is Boucher.
     Granted, Boucher has been thrust into a difficult situation. He wasn’t used much this season until injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton made him the team’s No. 1 goalie.
     Boucher, however, was more than rusty Thursday; he was brutal in a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota. He seemed out of position on most Minnesota shots, and the game-winner bounced off his glove and skate.
     It was a defeat that, to me, was the Flyers’ worst of the season.
     Worse than the losses to lowly Edmonton and Toronto.
     Worse than any of the four defeats to Atlanta.
    The reason, of course, was that Thursday’s game had playoff implications _ and the Flyers blew a 3-1 third-period lead. At home. Against a team going nowhere.
    Afterward, there was the same old talk from the locker room. They didn’t play with enough urgency. They were overconfident. They need to play hard for a full 60 minutes. Blah, blah, blah.
    Boucher, who surrendered three goals on Minnesota's last seven shots, played well earlier in the season as the backup. But once he has been elevated to starter, his game has dropped considerably. His reactions have been painfully slow.
    Maybe he can regain his sharpness. Maybe he can regroup.
    But he needs to take a game or two off because, right now, he does not look like a confident goalie.
Give Backlund, 29, his first NHL start Saturday at the Igloo against Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champions. There will be no pressure on the 6-foot-2, 198-pounder. After all, this is a game the Flyers are EXPECTED to lose.
    Backlund was impressive with the AHL Phantoms this season and, besides, the Flyers need to find out if they should re-sign the prospective free-agent after the season.
    The Flyers have lost four straight and six of seven. They lack leadership, chemistry and goal scoring. On top of that, their confidence is being shattered by the soft goals that are being allowed.
   Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be motivated to play a better all-around game and protect a rookie (though a veteran and a former star in Sweden) making his first NHL appearance.
    Give me your take on it.

Staff Writer
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