So there are a whole bunch of lineups changes as we head into tonight's Game 3 against the Buffalo Sabres. Some of these make sense. Some of them do not. Let's break them down one-by-one.
We'll start in Buffalo, where Jordan Leopold will return to the lineup earlier than expected from a broken finger. Who knows if they're rushing him back or what, but honestly, it's not my team. I don't care. If he's in the lineup, expect him to be at full speed.
Leopold is essentially the Sabres top defenseman -- certainly an upgrade from the loss of Shoane Morissonn. He'll probably lead the Sabres in ice time tonight, he's fantastic in the breakout and he's solid positionally in the defensive end. Offensively, he leaves a lot to be desired, but he's a fantastic defenseman. It'll be an extra challenge for the Flyers.
Now, to those Flyers.
Andreas Nodl is out for Nikolay Zherdev. Nothing against Nodl here -- he's just injured. Hopefully nothing serious, we'll see what happens. Looking forward to what Zherdev can do, though. Hopefully they opt to put Zherdev with Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter again, while moving James van Riemsdyk back with Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg.
In unsurprising news, Chris Pronger is still out and won't play in Game 3. He did skate with the team at HSBC Arena this morning, though, so that's encouraging. Game 4 return would be fantastic.
I'm not in that locker room and I'm not in Bob's head, but if this quote from Bob means anything, we have a fragile young goaltender on our hands. "Physically, I'm feeling normal. Mentally... not really. But I'll get over it soon."
It's no secret that the Flyers are all in on winning the Cup this season, and Bob has been a huge part of the regular season success. He was even great in Game 1, while Game 2 was just a mess all around. It's not as if Bob was any worse than Ryan Miller was in Game 1, yet the two are obviously different animals.
I understand why Peter Laviolette pulled Bob in Game 2, and I understand why he's starting Brian Boucher in Game 3. The players all talked after Game 2 how Boosh was a calming influence in the net as soon as he stepped in. That's what he brings to the table. You felt it, I felt it, the Sabres felt it.
But why send Leighton in to ride the pine, just further hurting Bob's confidence? You can't bring Bob back into the lineup after making a drastic move like this, can you? Who knows, really. That's potentially long-term stuff.
What's important in terms of winning Game 3, though, is that if you start Boosh, you have a shaky, less-than-confident young goalie on the bench should things go wrong. That calming influence that Boucher provided in Game 2? Not gonna happen again. With Michael Leighton behind Boosh, though, you have playoff experience. Veteran experience. That's what you want.
For me, then, it looks like the decision can go one of two ways. You start Bob and keep things normal, or you start Boosh and Leighton backs him up, damn the other consequences. It appears as though Peter Laviolette has chosen option No. 2.