PITTSBURGH _ Brian Boucher's experience, the fact he played a starring role in last season's playoffs, and his strong 2010 preseason figured to get him the starting goaltender nod when the Flyers opened the season in Pittsburgh Thursday.
Yet, it was Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky, a 22-year-old rookie, who got the call.
"I was a little shocked," Boucher said before the game.
During the preseason, Bobrovsky and Boucher both excelled. Boucher, 33, had a 1.90 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. Bobrovsky, signed as an undrafted free agent in May, had a 1.76 GAA and .939 save percentage.
"It's not based on one day or two," coach Peter Laviolette said of his decision to start Bobrovsky. "From the time he's been here, he's been sharp every game, every situation, every practice. He's been really good, and I think Boosh came in and played well. It's nice to have two goaltenders and you'll see both of them early in the season."
Laviolette is making a bold move, starting a rookie against one of the NHL's top teams as it opens its new arena.
Bobrovsky did show poise beyond his years in the preseason. Nothing fazed him. Still, most thought he would be bypassed for the veteran Boucher and not play his first NHL game until Saturday in St. Louis.
Instead, the "Bob" era begins.
As for Boucher, starting the season as the backup didn't seem to shake his confidence.
"The decision won't reflect the way I feel about myself at all," he said. "If I had a terrible camp, then maybe there would be some self-doubt. But I had a great camp and feel like last year, when it was on the line, I did what was asked.I feel good about that."
Bobrovsky, who will become the youngest goalie to ever start for the Flyers in a season opener, wasn't available to the media until after the game.
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Laviolette wouldn't confirm it _ he called it a game-time decision _ but defenseman Oskars Bartulis will start and Chris Pronger (knee) will sit out the opener. Pronger said the surgically repaired knee needed to get stronger.