Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Posted: 11:06 p.m. Updated: 11:19 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
BOSTON -- Peter Laviolette prefers not to put too much pressure on his goaltender. After all, according to the Flyers coach, his goalie doesnt need to steal a game in order for the team to win.
Thats not how the Flyers are built, Laviolette said on Tuesday.
Maybe not, but any team destined for a lengthy Stanley Cup run requires at minimum credible goaltending. And in a game a number of the Flyers called a must win, thats far from what they received from starting goalie Brian Boucher in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Instead, for the sixth time in their last 10 playoff games, the Flyers were forced to pull their goalie. And in their 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins Wednesday night, which put them in a 3-0 series hole, much of the responsibility for the outcome rested on Bouchers shoulders.
Of course, his teammates preferred not to view it that way.
You win as a team, you lose as a team, Danny Briere said. Its everybody involved. You cant just fault one guy; I dont think its fair.
"It is a team game," said Jeff Carter, who returned from a knee injury to play in Game 3. "There are a lot of guys out there on the ice. Sometimes we have been hanging out goalie out to dry here. The guys on the ice have to take a lot of the blame."
Whether or not its fair to call him out for it, Boucher gave up two goals to the Bruins in the games opening 63 seconds shattering the unfortunate club record of fasted two goals allowed in a playoff game. The previous record was 85 seconds on May 5, 1985, in a 4-3 loss in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Briere referred to defensive breakdowns in the Flyers zone that led to the two early goals in an attempt to clear Boucher of total blame. But the Flyers goalie, who has been candid with the media throughout the entire postseason run, wasnt buying it.
I dont worry about the defensive breakdowns, Boucher said. Its my job to try to stop the puck. Its definitely disappointing.
Key to the Flyers fate all along this postseason has been their performance from the first puck drop. In games in which the goaltending has withstood a bit of pressure, and the offense has come out with energy, theyve managed to find some success. That may have been on their minds Wednesday, but they didnt play like it.
Its not the start that we envisioned, Boucher said. And you know you want to get off to a good start. It didnt happen today.
Even after allowing two goals on three shots in what was easily his most dreadful start to a game this postseason, Boucher remained in net. Laviolette called a timeout early in the first period, but Boucher assured his coach he was OK. It wasnt until late in the second period, when he again let in two goals in quick succession (just over a minute separated goals by Bruins Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton), that he finally left the game.
When the door to the Flyers bench swung open and Sergei Bobrovsky skated onto the ice, Boucher slammed his stick against the goal posts in frustration. The crowd was still chanting his name long after he made the agonizing walk down the tunnel to the visitors locker room.
Boucher has been pulled in two of the Flyers three games of this series because of poor performance. Thats notable particularly because, after the Michael Leighton debacle of the first round, Laviolette really had appeared ready to stick with Boucher as his true No. 1 guy going forward.
But once again, the veteran netminder will be the target of much criticism in the days ahead.
I think its unfortunate, Sean ODonnell said. I dont want to get into every single game, but you look at tonight, and we were down 2-0, and obviously the way that people look at it, theyre going to pile on Boosh. But I dont think Tim Thomas, if he were in net, would have stopped either of those goals.
The problem is, Thomas has come up with critical saves to provide momentum when his team has needed it most. Boucher hasnt.
Of course, theres a bit of a silver lining: Bobrovsky was competent for most of his time out on the ice, though he did help the Bruins net their first power-play goal of the entire postseason run. But even if he starts Game 4, is he capable of leading the Flyers to a victory?
That question, and the larger one of whether the Flyers goaltending, as a whole, is satisfactory, is one that is certainly on the minds of the Flyers management as visions of a Cup victory seem to be slipping out of their grasp.
The seasons not over, Flyers chairman Ed Snider said, when asked whether he believes his teams goaltending is good enough. Well evaluate everything when the seasons over.
But considering the season could come to an end in a matter of days and goaltending is a big reason why thats a rather ominous statement.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at firstname.lastname@example.org