Ex-Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky a Vezina Trophy finalist

Ex-Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky a Vezina Trophy finalist
May 8, 2013, 2:00 pm
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It seems there's always a goalie controversy of some sort in Philadelphia, even if that "controversy" doesn't involve one of the Flyers' current netminders.

On Wednesday, Sergei Bobrovsky, the goaltender the Flyers traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets last year for draft picks, was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. That award, of course, is given to "the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position." It's voted on by the NHL's 30 general managers.

Predictably, the angry tweets and e-mails poured in to this CSNPhilly.com hockey writer.

In his first season with the Blue Jackets, the 24-year-old Russian goalie compiled a 21-11-6 record, earning a .932 save percentage (second-best in the NHL) and 2.00 goals-against average (sixth in the NHL). He unseated Steve Mason, the prior Columbus starter, who is now ironically a Flyer.

Bobrovsky was impressive in 2013, brief though the season was, winning eight of his last nine decisions in the month of April, and posting a 1.64 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in that span. He was the reason the Jackets, who finished ninth in the Western Conference, came as close as they did to a playoff appearance.

It's easy to see why Flyers fans are frustrated. Bobrovsky had a surprisingly good rookie year with the Flyers, when he went 28-13 with a .915 save percentage and 2.59 goals-against average. But as young netminders often do, his play trailed off in the second half of his sophomore effort. The Flyers, notorious for being impatient, elected to dish him when his stock was low.

Arguments can certainly be made that the Flyers should have held onto their undrafted netminder, or at least traded him after his rookie campaign when interest was high. But after the playoffs of 2010-11 - another year in which coach Peter Laviolette oversaw a goalie carousel, this time with Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher - chairman Ed Snider made his now-famous remarks that such "goalie issues" would "never" happen again in Philadelphia.

The following summer, the team signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51-million deal.

Bringing in Bryzgalov didn't necessarily mean the end of Bobrovsky as a Flyer. But "Bobs" had made it very clear that he wanted to be a starting goalie, and the length and cost of Bryzgalov's deal meant there was no way that was going to happen soon enough to please him.

And so, here we are.

Bobrovsky is up against Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers for the Vezina. And even if he doesn't win it, he might not escape this lockout-shortened season empty-handed: There's a very good chance he will be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player, too. Those nominees will be announced May 10.

For what it's worth, the Bobrovsky trade resulted in the selection of goaltending prospect Anthony Stolarz (No. 45) and left wing Taylor Leier (No. 117) in last year's draft.

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