Remember Brian Boucher? He's the guy who came on in relief of Michael Leighton last Wednesday and promptly gave up 2 goals on his first 3 shots. Maybe that's because he hadn't seen playing time in exactly two months - January 3rd. It seems completely reasonable that Boucher would be a little rusty after not playing in two months.
With Ray Emery on LTIR, the Flyers have decided that Michael Leighton is their number one goalie. That means Brian Boucher is their number two. The problem is that both John Stevens and Peter Laviolette have forgotten that goaltenders (not named Martin Brodeur) need some rest, and their backups need playing time.
To start the season, John Stevens ran Ray Emery out 16 of the first 17 games. The only start Boucher got was against his former team (and NHL powerhouse), the San Jose Sharks. He got another start in the 18th game - a 3-2 win over Los Angeles - but he understandably looked shaky. You remember the weak goal he gave up in the first period: maybe that was because he hadn't seen any action in three weeks. After that, he rebounded nicely, preserving the win despite a last-minute flurry by the Kings.
Once Emery went down with injury, Boucher started 9 games in a row before getting hurt himself. In those nine games, Boucher had below average numbers: 2.89 gaa, 0.895 save percentage, 2-6-1 record. But, only three times did Boucher allow more than 2 goals. Only once did Boucher allow more than two even-strength goals. Only once in those nine games did the team score more than 2 goals (not counting empty-net goals).
Look at those numbers again. Boucher kept his team in 8 of the 9 games (a 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, where they scored 1 PP goal and 2 SH goals) but the team couldn't score. At all. Boucher did nothing to relegate himself to the bench, but rather Leighton performed so well that he earned himself a spot. Laviolette then started Leighton 11 straight games before Emery returned from injury. At that point, Emery promptly started 8 straight games before getting injured again.
Now that Emery is out for the season, Boucher is back opening the bench door again. Ten straight games have seen Leighton start in net and Boucher start as the doorman. Look at that again: Only twice the entire season has the team started their backup when both goalies were healthy. (The stretch on the road in November when Boucher got 3 out of 4 starts, Emery was clearly hurt. If you count Leighton starting against the Leafs after Emery returned from injury, then it's three.) Despite everyone noting a three-headed goalie situation in Philly, the coaches have repeatedly limited their crease to one man's, and one man's only.
But it's time to split up that crease; it's time to play Boucher. And we're going to argue why. Jump for it.
Brian Boucher needs to start on Tuesday because he isn't ready to play in the event that Leighton falls apart.
Boucher hasn't started since December 21st. Both times he has come on in relief of a faltering Michael Leighton (Jan. 3rd against Ottawa, and Mar. 3rd against Florida), he gave up two goals on four shots against Ottawa (a goal on the first shot), and two goals on three shots against Florida. He can practice every day, but until he's in an NHL game, the rust will show. Even in his next start, the first 3 or 5 shots on goal will be an adventure. This is what happens when a goalie sits on the bench doing nothing.
Imagine what would happen if Leighton gets hurt in the middle of a must win game, and Boucher has only played in one or two games up to then. Expect the other team to promptly score two goals. This is not Brian Boucher's fault. This would be Peter Laviolette's.
The best way to help Boucher shake the rust is against a team that is not very good.
As said above, Boucher is already rusty. This is evident by judging the first few minutes of each game he has entered. He will likely be rusty the next time he sees the ice, so you want to compensate by playing him against a team that is less likely to take advantage of this rust. In other words, avoid playing him against Washington, Pittsburgh, and San Jose. Instead, look for games against Edmonton, Toronto, and NY Islanders. Coincidentally, the Flyers just played Toronto and are playing the Islanders on Tuesday.
After seeing just how rusty Boucher was against Florida, he needs to shake it off sooner rather than later. The fact that the Islanders are next on the schedule makes this the perfect time to play him.
If Michael Leighton is your number one, he needs to be protected. He can use some rest.
After not acquiring a goaltender at the deadline, it's pretty clear that Michael Leighton will carry the load for the Flyers. He has never done this before during his career. His career high in games played is 34, occurring in 2003-04. Since then, his second most games played is 29, occurring this year. He will break his record for most games played. Seeing as how he's having a career year, the Flyers can't afford to tire him out.
The best way to give him some rest is against teams the Flyers should beat - with or without him. This includes the Islanders.
With the Olympic Break causing the stretch run to be jam-packed - they play 11 games in the next 20 days - the Flyers will need to play Brian Boucher a lot.
The team has three back-to-back games in the next three weeks. Brian Boucher will have to play at least two of them (should play three) and he is nowhere near ready to play Chicago/NY Rangers, Atlanta/Atlanta, and Pittsburgh/New Jersey. You don't want him getting his first start in three months against the Chicago Blackhawks. But he can be ready to play the Rangers if he gets some games in before that. This then circles back to point number 2, and concludes that Boucher should start against the Islanders on Tuesday.
So far this year, Boucher beats the Islanders. He's 2-0-0 with a 1.51 gaa and 0.943 save percentage in two games this season.
Not only does Boucher need playing time and need it against a weak team, the Islanders have only been able to score three goals in two games against him. This should be enough of a reason to wrap everything up nicely: Boucher needs to play, he should play against a weak team, Leighton could use some rest, the team needs Boucher to play over the next few weeks, and Boucher beats the Islanders.
Add all that up, and it is a no-brainer that Brian Boucher should start on Tuesday. Oh, and I'll be at the game and I want to wear my old-school Boucher jersey. There's 6 reasons he should start. Have any more?