Thursday, April 14, 2011
Posted: 11:18 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
The lights in the Wells Fargo Center dimmed, the musics volume amped up and the crowd rose to its feet, cheering as loud as it has all season.
And Sergei Bobrovsky tried his best to ignore all of it.
Bobrovsky, in net for his first ever NHL playoff game, knew he had to find his comfort zone and literally shut out all of the excitement around him in order to play how he knew he needed to.
It added some energy and emotion, Bobrovsky said of the arenas playoff atmosphere. But I tried not to pay attention to this, and not to get distracted from my game.
No, Bobrovsky didnt steal Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals for the Flyers, but he came close. Instead, the Buffalo Sabres took an early series lead with a 1-0 victory.
But the thing is, ahead of the game, no one was concerned the Flyers wouldnt find the back of the net. Given their depth on both offense and defense, the No. 1 question heading into Thursdays game was goaltending: Was Bob truly deserving of the playoff start?
Bobrovsky had an answer for it, despite the loss. He looked competent through all three periods, stopping all but one of the Sabres 25 shots. It was a far cry from his previous outing April 11 against the New York Islanders, when he was pulled after allowing three goals on just eight shots.
He played really well, Sean ODonnell said. I think Bob answered a lot of critics. We never questioned him. As a team, we didnt play well the second half, but we knew we were revved up to come in here for Game 1, and he gave us a good chance to win tonight.
To say confidence in Bobrovsky wasnt at a high heading into the postseason would be an understatement. Sure, his teammates all gave the company line after Bobrovskys ugly outing in the regular seasons final game but almost every player who broached the subject managed to name drop Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton as capable options to take over for Bobrovsky.
You know, just in case.
But just like a number of his teammates, Bobrovsky played playoff hockey on Thursday. He went save-for-save with veteran Ryan Miller through 47 minutes, and even played as if he were on a mission to prove that much of the criticism hes received in recent weeks wasnt due. He confidently handled the puck, for instance, and appeared more confident with traffic on his doorstep.
In a matchup in which almost everyone, without hesitation, claimed the Sabres had an unbridgeable goalie advantage, Bobrovsky provided a moment to second-guess.
In fact, he was on a roll, it seemed, until Sabre Patrick Kaleta got a lucky rebound, and whipped the puck in on Bobrovsky before the Flyers rookie could even figure out where the puck had traveled.
Everything happened really quickly, Bobrovsky said. The defenseman shot it at me and the rebound went right to the other player. It happened so quick I couldnt react in time.
Eighty-three games down, and the Flyers still remain without a shutout. But of all of the reasons the team was unable to come away with a win an inability to beat Miller, too many blocked shots, a pitiful power play Bobrovsky certainly wasnt one of them.
I thought he played pretty well, Kimmo Timonen said. The saves he made, he made pretty well. But weve got to score goals.
Danny Briere put it even more succinctly: Bob was good, he said. But Ryan was even better.
Friday at Skate Zone, the Flyers will almost surely focus on fixing their fruitless power play and working on ways to solve Miller. Figuring out how to work around their own goalie, however, wont be a concern. So far, Bobrovsky has earned that.
But despite his strong showing, and despite his teammates kind words, Bobrovsky was not satisfied with the way he played in front of the sellout crowd.
I cant be happy, Bobrovsky said. We didnt win the game.
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