November 13, 2010

Just chillin'.

From Sam Carchidi's Philadelphia Flyers weekend recap:
Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers' unflappable Russian goalie, is starting to pick up English. When public-relations manager Joe Siville asked him, "What's up?" Bobrovsky replied, "Not much. Just chillin'."
Awesome. And as the early front-runner for not only the Calder Trophy but the Vezina as well, Bobrovsky has my permission to chill all the hell he wants.

I remember when the Flyers signed Bobrovsky in May. My dad, a huge Flyers fan and season-ticket holder, sent out a family email wondering who this young kid was and speculating that he might be involved in this year's goalie rotation. Since "Flyers goalie" is the second-most debated position in Philadelphia sports, behind only "Eagles quarterback," I was intrigued.

But at the same time, Michael Leighton was coming off a resurgent season where he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals. It seemed likely that he and Brian Boucher would handle goaltending duties in 2010-2011. They might not be a lockdown duo, but with the additions of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O'Donnell to a top-heavy defense, it should be enough to get the job done.

But then Leighton went down with a back injury that had been bothering him for quite some time. And then Bobrovsky impressed in training camp. By the time he'd won a few games and established himself as, at the very least, a legitimate NHL goalie, the writing was on the wall. Bobrovsky was here to stay.

I don't think anyone, however, expected this. The numbers say it all: Second in the NHL in wins (nine), sixth in save percentage (.931), and seventh in goals-against average (2.09). Those are Luongo/Brodeur numbers, not what we've come to expect from a Flyers goalie.

But every night Laviolette throws Bob out there, and every night he seems to win games. He's not overly acrobatic, but he's steady as can be; as Carchidi said, he's unflappable, and he's terrific at squaring up his body for every single shot. I read somewhere that goaltending coach Jeff Reese, who worked wonders with Leighton, is teaching Bob to come out of his net more and challenge skaters, something we've already seen him do earlier this week.

Of course, Flyers fans have seen flash-in-the-pan goalies before. Roman Cechmanek had some amazing years before he went totally insane, and even Boucher played like a franchise goalie in the making throughout the 2000 playoffs.

But as of right now, Bob looks like the real deal. And the fans love him. "Bob" chants echo throughout the Wells Fargo Center (ugh, I hate that name) and even the mysterious Zoo With Roy has started selling Bob t-shirts.

The "Bob" nickname might be a little lazy, but then again, how often do goalies have nicknames? It just shows how ready this city is to invest in a skilled backstop, someone they can count on after years of Jeff Hacketts and John Vanbiesbroucks. Maybe Bob won't turn out to be that guy, but so far he's passed every test. So far, he's done nothing but dominate for a team that might end up being the best in the NHL.

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