New Season, same story as goaltending issues continue to haunt Flyers
There are some things you can guarantee in Philadelphia sports; Eagles fans will continue to hate Donovan McNabb, the Phillies will catch fire every September, and most of all, the Flyers will always have goaltender issues. After the news yesterday that Michael Leighton will miss a month with a bulging disc in his back, the Flyers are back in a goaltending quagmire.
I’m one of the many who are on the Leighton bandwagon, I feel that, especially with our upgraded defense, he is more than capable of taking us back to the finals. Now, i’ve followed the Flyers for a long time and we’ve seen numerous “minor” injuries to key players be downplayed. It turned out they were much more severe than the front office wanted you to believe.
You can go back to the Eric Lindros saga of the late 90’s, to the multiple Simon Gagne groin issues, Peter Forsberg’s continual foot problems, Danny Briere’s groin injury in the 08-09 season, and Ray Emery’s “minor” hip strain last season. Each of these injuries ended up being ones that either kept the player out for the majority of the season or they came back (perhaps too soon) only to re-injured themselves where the team’s performance suffered.
Leighton’s injury reminds me way too much of the other injuries I just mentioned. My gut feeling is that we’ll be without him for more than a month, or perhaps he wont ever be 100% healthy this season.
However, if the prognosis on Leighton is accurate and he is indeed back in a month, the Flyers should be fine. Brian Boucher is more than capable of holding down the fort for a few weeks. But as I said earlier I have a bad feeling that we wont have Leighton for a while, if at all. If that’s the case, Boucher will be number one on the depth chart.
“Boosh” is a good goalie, but nothing more than that. I’m just not sure if I fully trust him to be a full-time 55-60 game starter in the NHL, especially for a championship caliber team. Behind Boucher, there is Johan Backlund, who won 21 games for the Phantoms last season posting a 2.79 goals against average.
Backlund has a grand total of 40 minutes of NHL experience, coming late last season against the Penguins, a game in which he allowed two goals in two periods, he looked pretty good. But you can’t base anything on 40 minutes of action.
Then there is rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Signed out of Russia in May, “Bob” has looked pretty good thus far in camp & in preseason games, but let’s not get too excited, he has never played in North America before. As I said, he’s looked good in preseason, but he’s playing against a majority of guys who will only play in the AHL this year. He needs some seasoning in the minors before I’m comfortable seeing him playing significant minutes for the orange and black.
If indeed goaltending becomes the Achilles heel for this team, all the Paul Holmgren haters will be back in full force. The names we heard over the Summer will be regurgitated again; Evgeni Nabakov, Marty Turco, and Dan Ellis or Chris Mason who would have been slightly cheaper than Leighton.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but lets just hope that another great Flyers team on paper doesn’t get brought down by goaltending issues.