Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers made a magical run through the post-season. They came back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the second round, after coming back from 3-0 in that series. They ended up making it to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Last year, the Flyers had mediocre-at-best goaltending, where they mixed and matched with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. But, their defense was stellar. They blocked shots all day and night and kept their netminders relatively clean. So, the deficiency was pretty well masked.
This year, the goaltending and defense were far worse. Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton (Jonas Backlund’s name even came up for Christ’s sake) were yanked and started repeatedly as the Flyers just couldn’t get solid goaltending. They couldn’t overcome Boston’s 3-0 lead this year and were swept by a team that thoroughly outclassed them.
So, while it wasn’t just goaltending that was the problem, it was indeed a problem. And it hurts even worse to know that Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who was marvelous all year, could have been had in the offseason. Sure, he was 35-years old, had a $5 million salary and had lost his job to Tuukka Rask last year, but he had to have been better than what the Flyers had, right?
I was a bit worried about his high price tag, but I also wasn’t convinced that any of the guys from last year would get it done for a team that was built to win now. GM Paul Holmgren went out and acquired defense this offseason and I don’t blame him. Defense masked the goalie problems last year. But, at some point you need someone who can play. And Tim Thomas would have been an upgrade over Leighton, Boucher and a 22-year old Russian kid that doesn’t speak English.
No, I didn’t see Thomas’ insane, possible-Vezina-winning season coming. But the guy has been excellent in the past and Philly’s failure to trade for him (he wouldn’t have commanded much after the season he had) ended up costing them pretty big. Thomas was a wall against the Flyers in this series and Boucher and Bobrovsky (who wasn’t bad)….um, weren’t.
For next year, the team is going to have to sacrifice a guy like Jeff “I don’t show up in the playoffs” Carter for better goaltending. We’ll see what’s out there, but you can’t seriously go into a season with championship aspirations and tell the fan base that Boosh will be good enough.