CHICAGO - MAY 27: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers answers a question during Stanley Cup media day at the United Center on May 27, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Peter Laviolette has a goalie problem. No, this isn't another post on what the hell he's going to do when Michael Leighton finally returns to the lineup. It's a different problem. In my opinion, it's a more serious problem.
Sergei Bobrovsky will make his 10th straight start tonight for the Flyers, and nobody is complaining about that now considering the team has picked up points in every single one of those games, largely thanks to Bob's magnificent play. This just might be a problem down the road, though.
In just under a year as Flyers head coach, Laviolette has displayed a complete inability to start his backup goaltender. After the jump, we'll look at every single one of Laviolette's regular season goaltending decisions, from the day he took over last December to tonight's game against the Senators. The results are slightly disturbing.
We'll ignore anything that happened before Peter Laviolette was head coach, obviously. December 5 against Washington was his first game as head coach. Ray Emery got the start that night and was quickly pulled as the Caps ran up the score on the embarrassed Flyers. We learned a few days later that Emery was hurt.
Laviolette then gave Boucher the reins until yet another injury sidelined him. You'll notice that same theme here throughout. Let's get to the chart.
|Dec 5, 2009||Capitals||L, 8-2||Emery (Boucher)|
|Dec 7, 2009||Canadiens||L, 3-1||Boucher|
|Emery goes on IR on December 8, Backlund enters as backup
|Dec 8, 2009||Islanders||W, 6-2||Boucher|
|Dec 10, 2009||Senators||L, 2-0||Boucher|
|Dec 12, 2009||Devils||L, 4-1||Boucher|
|Dec 14, 2009||Bruins||W, 3-1||Boucher|
|Michael Leighton claimed off waivers December 15, Backlund sent down
|Dec 15, 2009||Penguins||L, 6-1||Boucher|
|Dec 17, 2009||Penguins||SOL, 3-2||Boucher|
|Dec 19, 2009||Rangers||L, 2-1||Boucher|
|Dec 21, 2009||Panthers||L, 4-1||Boucher (Leighton)|
|Boucher injured against Panthers, Leighton finished game|
|Dec 23, 2009||Lightning||W, 5-2||Leighton|
|Dec 26, 2009||Hurricanes||W, 4-3||Leighton|
|Dec 27, 2009||Islanders||W, 2-1||Leighton|
|Dec 30, 2009||Rangers||W, 6-0||Leighton|
|Jan 1, 1010||Bruins||OTL, 2-1||Leighton|
|Jan 3, 2010||Senators||L, 7-4||Leighton (Boucher) Leighton|
|Leighton started vs OTT, Boucher came in for 7:00, Leighton finished the game|
|Jan 6, 2010||Leafs||W, 6-2||Leighton|
|Jan 7, 2010||Penguins||W, 7-4||Leighton|
|Jan 9, 2010||Lightning||W, 4-1||Leighton|
|Jan 12, 2010||Stars||W, 6-3||Leighton|
|Jan 14, 2010||Leafs||L, 4-0||Leighton|
|Emery returns from injury, Leighton as backup|
|Jan 17, 2010||Capitals||L, 5-3||Emery|
|Jan 19, 2010||Blue Jackets||W, 5-3||Emery|
|Jan 21, 2010||Rangers||W, 2-0||Emery|
|Jan 23, 2010||Hurricanes||W, 4-2||Emery|
|Jan 24, 2010||Penguins||L, 2-1||Emery|
|Jan 28, 2010||Thrashers||L, 4-3||Emery|
|Jan 30, 2010||Islanders||W, 2-1||Emery|
|Feb 1, 2010||Flames||W, 3-0||Emery|
|Emery injured again, Boucher returns as backup|
|Feb 3, 2010||Oilers||L, 1-0||Leighton|
|Feb 6, 2010||Wild||L, 2-1||Leighton|
|Feb 8, 2010||Devils||W, 3-2||Leighton|
|Feb 10, 2010||Devils||W, 3-2||Leighton|
|Feb 12, 2010||Canadiens||W, 3-2||Leighton|
|Feb 13, 2010||Canadiens||W, 6-2||Leighton|
|Mar 2, 2010||Lightning||W, 7-2||Leighton|
|Mar 3, 2010||Panthers||L, 7-4||Leighton (Boucher)|
|Mar 5, 2010||Sabres||OTL, 3-2||Leighton|
|Mar 7, 2010||Leafs||W, 3-1||Leighton|
|Mar 9, 2010||Islanders||W, 3-2||Leighton|
|Mar 11, 2010||Bruins||L, 5-1||Leighton (Boucher)|
|Mar 13, 2010||Blackhawks||W, 3-2||Leighton|
|Mar 14, 2010||Rangers||L, 3-1||Leighton|
|Mar 16, 2010||Predators||SOL, 4-3||Leighton (Boucher)|
|Leighton injured vs NSH, Duchesne called up as backup|
|Mar 18, 2010||Stars||W, 3-2||Boucher|
|Mar 20, 2010||Thrashers||L, 5-2||Boucher|
|Mar 21, 2010||Thrashers||L, 3-1||Boucher|
|Mar 23, 2010||Senators||L, 2-0||Boucher|
|Backlund called up as new backup|
|Mar 25, 2010||Wild||OTL, 4-3||Boucher|
|Mar 27, 2010||Penguins||L, 4-1||Backlund (Boucher)|
|Backlund hurt vs Penguins, Hutton called up as backup|
|Mar 28, 2010||Devils||W, 5-1||Boucher|
|Duchesne called up again as backup|
|Apr 1, 2010||Islanders||L, 6-4||Boucher (Duchesne)|
|Caron signed as backup|
|Apr 2, 2010||Canadiens||L,1-0||Boucher|
|Apr 4, 2010||Wings||W, 4-3||Boucher|
|Apr 6, 2010||Leafs||W, 2-0||Boucher|
|Apr 9, 2010||Rangers||L, 4-3||Boucher|
|Apr 11, 2010||Rangers||W, 2-1||Boucher|
|Oct 7, 2010||Penguins||W, 3-2||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 9, 2010||Blues||OTL, 2-1||Boucher|
|Oct 11, 2010||Avalanche||W, 4-2||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 14, 2010||Lightning||L, 3-2||Boucher|
|Oct 16, 2010||Penguins||L, 5-1||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 21, 2010||Ducks||L, 3-2||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 23, 2010||Leafs||W, 5-2||Boucher|
|Oct 25, 2010||Blue Jackets||L, 2-1||Boucher|
|Oct 26, 2010||Sabres||W, 6-3||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 29, 2010||Penguins||W, 3-2||Bobrovsky|
|Oct 30, 2010||Islanders||W, 6-1||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 1, 2010||Hurricanes||W, 3-2||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 4, 2010||Rangers||W, 4-1||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 6, 2010||Islanders||W, 2-1||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 7, 2010||Capitals||OTL, 2-1||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 11, 2010||Hurricanes||W, 8-1||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 13, 2010||Panthers||W, 5-2||Bobrovsky|
|Nov 15, 2010||Senators||?||Bobrovsky|
Michael Leighton didn't get his first chance in net until Boucher was injured against the Florida Panthers on December 21. Boucher wasn't out of the lineup for long, but as it played out, he wouldn't get another chance in net until March. Leighton started 11 straight games after Boucher went down, and Emery soon returned and started eight straight games. Leighton served as backup while Boucher became the third goaltender.
Emery went down with another injury in early February, and from there the net was all Leighton again. Boucher returned to the bench and watched Leighton start 13 straight games. Boucher got a chance to play in three of those games after Leighton started, but he didn't get a start of his own until Leighton went down to an injury of his own against Nashville on March 16.
Boucher was now the starter again, and with Jeremy Duchesne as the backup, it's easy to understand why Boucher was the only goaltender getting time. Finally, however, when Johan Backlund returned from an injury of his own, he sat a few games before getting a start against Pittsburgh on March 27.
The moral of the story? It took Peter Laviolette 46 games behind the Flyers bench before he gave his backup goaltender an actual start, whether that backup was Johan Backlund, Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton.
Of course, Backlund was hurt against Pittsburgh in that one start, so Boucher wound up playing half of that game anyway, and from that point on, it's hard to blame Laviolette for starting any goaltender but his starter. From the end of March until the end of the regular season, Boucher was backed up by some mix of Duchesne, Carter Hutton or Sebastien Caron, so we won't fault him there.
But we have to ask the question: is there any correlation between the amount of injuries the Flyers suffered at the goaltender position last season and the amount of games Laviolette made his starting goaltender play last season? It's an uneasy question to ask, but really, it has to be done.
Whether the answer is yes or no, it's kind of irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that goaltenders need rest. They'll never admit it, but they do. We're raising this topic now because it appears that Laviolette is going down the same path with Sergei Bobrovsky. Look at the second half of the above chart.
With the exception of a few starts at the beginning of the season when we weren't exactly sure who the clear-cut starter was on this team, Bobrovsky has been handed the reins. We're at double-digits when it comes to consecutive starts now.
It's hard not to give him the nod -- we all understand that. He's playing magnificent hockey and is turning himself into a rookie of the year candidate while doing it.
We have to remember, though, that he's already played 13 games this season and the year isn't even a fourth of the way over. 35 games is the most he's ever played in a season in his career to this point, and that wasn't even against the toughest competition in the world.
All of this -- Laviolette's unwillingness to start anybody but the starter and Bobrovsky's untested endurance -- seems to equate to a disaster in the long run. We're not asking for Laviolette to give his backup a ton of starts, but would a game or two, just to give Bobrovsky a rest, really hurt that much?