Flyers Still Haunted By Goaltending Woes

The position of the Philadelphia Flyers goaltending has been a revolving door for over a decade, yet the team still hasn’t learned its lesson.

In last night’s loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3, Brian Boucher surrendered two goals in the first 1:03 of the game and the Flyers went on to lose 5-1 to push Philadelphia to the brink of elimination. It was the sixth time in 10 playoff games that the Flyers switched goalies mid-game, and the inconsistency of Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky will most likely force Philadelphia out of the playoffs.

You’d think that by know the Flyers would have recognized that applying temporary bandages to a gushing wound doesn’t work, but this is nothing new. The Flyers have made the playoffs in 14 of the last 15 seasons, but they’ve had nine different starting goalies in the postseason during that timeframe.

This year Philadelphia relied on an erratic Russian rookie and a career journeyman backup to guide the team through the playoffs, and it cost them.

One instance of misguided faith by an organization in a player can be excused, but year after year the Flyers have entrusted inadequate men with the most important position on the ice.

Last year, the Flyers’ answer in net at the start of the season was a disgraced ex-NHLer that had experienced a brief revival in Russia. Philadelphia brought Ray Emery, the troubled ex-Ottawa Senator back to North America where he promptly succumbed to injury. The Flyers replaced Emery with Boucher and Michael Leighton, who had already been cast off by four teams. The duo split time and Leighton did an admirable job in the playoffs and guided the Flyers through the Stanley Cup Finals, but in retrospect his success may have been the worst thing for the Flyers because it reinforced the club’s notion that goaltending is overrated.

It’s true that in today’s NHL teams are investing less money in goaltending than ever before. Many teams have enjoyed enormous success without having a big name in net, but the Flyers are clearly an exception to the rule. They’ve trotted out a seemingly endless list of unproven rookies, over the hill veterans and unreliable Europeans, and have for years declined to acquire a legitimate star between the pipes.

Philly hasn’t exactly been shy about spending money on mercenaries during that time either. The Flyers have brought in high-priced players like Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger, Daniel Briere, Andrej Meszaros, and Scott Hartnell in recent years, and yet, the Flyers continue to neglect their own net.

Philadelphia’s refusal to acquire a top-flight goalie long ago became inexcusable. With the Capitals eliminated, the Eastern Conference could have been the Flyers’ to lose this year and they could easily have won a Stanley Cup or two during the last decade. But the organization’s unwillingness to solidify the position has cost the Flyers repeatedly.

With some creative financial maneuvering this summer, the Flyers will have another chance to remedy their only issue when Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun become unrestricted free agents. But if we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that Philly stubbornly refuses to admit its weakness.

There’s a strong chance next year’s absurdly deep Flyers’ squad will meet the same fate as this year’s; an early playoff exit thanks to inexplicable personnel decisions.

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