BOUCHER THE ONLY ANSWER FOR GAME 6
That's fine, it's all part of the gamesmanship of the playoffs.
But if Laviolette is a smart coach, and there's plenty of evidence to prove that is the case, he will go back to Brian Boucher in goal for Game 6.
Really, there's no other choice.
He's the best goalie they have when it comes to dealing with the pressure of an elimination game.
Yes, Michael Leighton did the job in three elimination games against Boston last season - but don't forget the Bruins were bereft of any offensive talent whatsoever at that point and the Flyers had a date with destiny.
That was also pre-back injury Leighton. He's a lot different now. He's good enough to win in the AHL, but not the NHL - otherwise he'd have played more than one NHL game this season AND he wouldn't have started the playoffs third on the depth chart.
He's fine in an emergency, but once again you saw his weaknesses in Game 5. He allowed just one goal - the game winner, but it was a big rebound - something he is prone to giving up.
Not to mention, he looked shaky throughout the rest of the game. There were a few shots he stopped with good positioning, but there were a lot of close calls too. He seemed rusty. He seemed a little slow - no matter what the players and coaches say about him calming things down - he went untested until late in the third period.
As for Sergei Bobrovsky, he might have the most skill, talent and upside, but he is a not-ready-for-prime-time player. Let's talk Bobrovsky down the road. For now, he's a non-factor.
Which leaves Boucher.
Yes, he gave up a pair of unsightly goals in the first period. Yes he put his team in a bad spot by only stopping eight of 11 shots before leaving the ice, trailing the game 3-0. Yes he is a journeyman and, to most observers, no better than a backup.
But, he is best prepared to handle the rigors of a Game 6 in Buffalo. Remember, until the crazy first period ensued, Boucher led all goalies in save percentage in the playoffs - better than Henrik Lundqvist. Better than Roberto Luongo. Better than Antti Niemi. Better than Marc-Andre Fleury. Better than Carey Price. Better than all of them.
And now, after a horrible performance - the worst of his career and the first time in 32 career playoff starts that he was yanked - Boucher wants another crack at it.
“I’d very much like to redeem myself,” Boucher said. “It was my responsibility tonight. I take ownership in that. To put your team in a hole like that in such an important game – they didn’t deserve that. I’d to get a second crack at it. We’ll see what happens.”
If you listen to Leighton, he's already resigned to the fact that it's Boucher's series to lose.
"I definitely want to play but Boosh has done a great job to get us in this situation and tonight was one of those nights," Leighton said. "Two of those goals... you can probably take 100 shots from there and you might score one, so it's a tough bounce. (Like Patrick Kane in Game 6 of the Cup Finals, but I digress) We have confidence in Boosh. He's going to bounce back and play a good one in Buffalo."
Boucher wants to get back in the net. Leighton wants him there too. All that's left is for Laviolette to wake up tomorrow and realize the same thing - it's his best and only choice.
"I'll bounce back," Boucher said. "I'm a pretty resilient person. I'm pretty upset right now, I'm not going to lie to you. It was a big game and I wanted to have a good start and I didn't have that."
There's no guarantee Boucher will win Game 6 - or both Game 6 and Game 7 for that matter, but if you're playing the odds, he's a better bet than anyone else.
On a separate note, but still related tot he goaltending situation, it was a little more than a year ago that I was talking to Flyers' president Peter Luukko in the press box and he told me the Flyers couldn't continue to go on the same way with the goalies.
"We can't keep going the same way we have year after year," Luukko said. "We have to go in a different direction with goaltending - get someone young and stick with him."
That was before the unexpected run to the Finals. Before Leighton's magic act. Before Boucher's gutsy first round performance.
But, they did follow what Luukko said - and tried to turn things over to Bobrovsky. But, that didn't work either - at least not now.
Once again the offseason will be ripe with questions about goalies. Will the Flyers ever learn? Or will we see another playoff with the two of the three goalies currently in the mix trying to win a Cup again?
It seems like the vicious circle that will never end. Pity.