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Peter Laviolette's goalie problem

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)
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)
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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.

Date Opponent Result Starter (Backup)
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
Olympic break
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

Date Opponent Result Starter (Backup)
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?

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