Monday, August 31, 2015

Shades of 2000: Boosh to Flyers' rescue

Shades of 2000: Boosh to Flyers' rescue

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     NEWARK, N.J. _ Maybe you CAN go back to the future.
     Goalie Brian Boucher did on Wednesday night, outplaying the great Martin Brodeur, 2-1, as the Flyers jolted the New Jersey Devils in the teams’ playoff opener.
     Boosh, as he is affectionately known, played like it was 1999-00 all over again. That was his rookie season and the year he looked like the second coming of Bernie Parent.
     Remember?
     Boucher had a 20-10-3 record, a 1.91 goals-against average and .918 save percentage that season.
     As it turned out, he would never win more games, never have a full-season goals-against average or save percentage that was better.
     His career took a nosedive and he became The Journeyman Goalie, with stops in Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, San Jose and numerous minor-league outposts.
     But maybe, just maybe, the career backup is writing one of the most remarkable stories in Flyers history.
    About 2½ weeks ago, Boucher was, in effect, fourth in the Flyers’ pecking order of goalies.
    Two goalies in front of him _ Ray Emery and Michael Leighton _ were injured, and Boucher was struggling so mightily that Johan Backlund was given his first NHL assignment, getting a key start against host Pittsburgh on March 27.
    If Backlund performed well in that game, there was a good chance he would have been the Flyers’ main goalie down the stretch.
    As it turned out, Backlund re-aggravated a groin injury in that game, so the Flyers went back to Boucher.
    By default.
    The 33-year-old Rhode Island native took the opportunity and ran with it. He had a .931 save percentage in his final five regular-season games. He outdueled Rangers standout goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the Flyers won a 2-1 shoot-out Sunday that enabled them to get into the playoffs.
    Wednesday night, he stood taller than Martin Vezina, er, Brodeur, and made everyone flash back to 2000.
    Only a spoilsport would note that Brodeur and the Devils overcame a three games-to-one deficit and beat the Flyers in that Eastern Conference final.
    But that would be missing the point. Boucher was brilliant in the 2000 playoffs _ a 2.03 GAA, a .917 save percentage _ and the Flyers figured they had their goalie for the next 10 years.
    It didn’t work out that way. Looking back, Boucher said he put too much pressure on himself to duplicate that magical season. A few years later, he was an ex-Flyer. And, after the 2000 conference finals against New Jersey, he would never win another playoff game.
    Until Wednesday night.
    Like I said, is this a great story or what?
 

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