Sergei Bobrovsky

Sergei Bobrovsky-Carter Hart duel gives Flyers firsthand look at tough decision ahead

Sergei Bobrovsky-Carter Hart duel gives Flyers firsthand look at tough decision ahead

It took six days into the Chuck Fletcher era for the Flyers to reenter the rumor business. Two weeks ago, there were whispers they will take a run at Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers witnessed firsthand why that might be a solid idea even if it does potentially block Carter Hart from taking over as their No. 1 goalie full-time.

Bobrovsky stood on his head in the Columbus crease, stopping 34 pucks and making highlight-reel saves look routine. The Flyers fell, 4-3, to their former goalie's Blue Jackets.

"I try not to think about what's happened in the past," Bobrovsky said. "I have a huge amount of respect for this organization, for this club, but it's hockey."

This wasn't totally a case of the Flyers outplaying an opponent and simply running into a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie. There were defensive breakdowns, careless turnovers and Ivan Provorov's confidence with the puck remains a huge concern (see observations).

That said, this wasn't totally a case of the Flyers flat-out being dominated either. The Flyers had 67 shot attempts to Columbus' 30 and peppered Bobrovsky with 37 shots on net. The advanced metrics largely favor the Flyers. They ended an 0-for-13 power-play drought, though the man advantage finished 1 for 4 and didn't completely change that narrative.

"As I said to the players after the game," interim head coach Scott Gordon said, "with the exception of the plays on the goals, we played a game where we certainly had our fair share of chances, we limited the amount of opportunities. We should go to New York feeling confident about our game. I think we've had a level of consistency in the three games to know that we're starting to build some momentum as to how we want to play."

When it comes to discussing the Flyers' goalie situation, it's important to weigh the now vs. the future, something this organization has historically struck out on so much.

When it comes to talking Flyers goaltending, it's important to learn from the malpractice that took place with Bobrovsky, an undrafted free-agent signing that had all the tools already in his toolbox that led to him winning the Vezina in his first season in Columbus.

The Flyers have never known how to develop a goalie. History doesn't lie, so when it comes to how they should handle their current situation, it's hard to know exactly what to do.

Hart is here, for now, and he made his third straight start Saturday. His stat line was ugly — four goals on 19 shots — but it doesn't tell the whole story. Egregious turnovers and defensive breakdowns led to three of the four goals. The loss isn't on Hart.

Bobrovsky can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and all signs point to him testing the market. He has a legitimate case to cash out this summer as the highest-paid goalie in the NHL and if the Flyers are going to "take a run" at him, they're going to have to muster up the big bucks. The Flyers certainly know what he can do, and they saw it again Saturday. In fact, this season, Bobrovsky is 3-0-0 with 89 saves on 98 shots.

There is a way to make this work, a way where Hart receives a little more AHL seasoning and Bobrovsky handles the No. 1 job. It's important to remember that Hart is 20. The Flyers have to handle this goalie dilemma properly this time around. They didn't with Bobrovsky by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract.

The Flyers need a goalie to get to Hart. It was Ron Hextall's biggest failure as GM. Hart is in The Show now and for all we know, he may change the narrative himself. He may prove that he's ready to handle all of the pressures that come with being the No. 1 goalie in the city known as the NHL goaltending graveyard.

But if he's not, and Bobrovsky's swimming in those waters come July 1, there isn't a better bridge to Hart than the one they should have never given up on prematurely.

Saturday was just a reminder of what could have been.

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Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: Flyers come back to earth

Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: Flyers come back to earth

BOX SCORE 

It was bound to happen. The Flyers were going to lose a game with Carter Hart in net.

The Flyers on Saturday afternoon were crippled by defensive breakdowns and tortured by Columbus' first line in a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson were responsible for Columbus' four goals and had a combined eight points Saturday. Dubois and Panarin each had three points.

The Flyers closed out their 2018 home portion of the 2018-19 season 7-8-2. They embark on a five-game road swing Sunday in Manhattan against the Rangers before the Christmas break.

• Hart made his third straight start and this was certainly the shakiest he's looked. Hart's biggest issue was controlling rebounds. On Columbus' second goal, Hart made a spectacular save on Atkinson but the Blue Jackets' winger buried the rebound.

There was nothing Hart could have done on that one, though. The defense wasn't there — Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim allowed three Blue Jackets behind them on that sequence.

But generally speaking, rebounds were an issue Saturday for Hart. Hart allowed four goals on 19 shots. His fourth goal was the first bad one he's allowed yet.

• Provorov's confidence with the puck remains a huge concern. On Columbus' first goal, Provorov circled back into his own zone to successfully create space but lost control of the puck as Atkinson entered to apply pressure. That led to a tic-tac-toe sequence, resulting in a Zach Werenski goal. Provorov has to play a more simple game.

• The overall story of this game can be summed up in two parts. One, the defensive breakdowns were inexcusable and left a young goalie in tough positions. And two, the Blue Jackets' first line had a field day with the Sean Couturier line as they were responsible for all four goals.

Couturier was on the ice for all four Columbus goals, which doesn't happen often. He wasn't completely to blame as the defense was leaky and Jakub Voracek was careless.

• The Flyers' power play came into Saturday dead last in the NHL at 12.1 percent, was 7 for 79 since Oct. 13 and was 0 for its last 13. That skid ended with 22.4 seconds left in the first period when Couturier's second-effort backhand beat Sergei Bobrovsky.

Couturier's goal came from some luck — it wasn't an especially strong shot. But it came off a faceoff win from Claude Giroux and it counts.

• Speaking of Giroux, this dude has consistently been elite this season, just as he was last year. Giroux's assist was his 20th point in his past 15 games, and he now has 28 points over his last 20 games. He now has 42 points in 34 games. I'd be shocked if Giroux doesn't end up as the Flyers' second all-time leading scorer. Heck, it's not completely out of the question he can pass Bobby Clarke's 1,210 points — he's 491 points away.

• If there is one player who has been drastically different in the short three-game sample size under interim head coach Scott Gordon, it's Nolan Patrick. The second-year center has looked more assertive and has taken better routes both with and without the puck. That continued Saturday, and his line with Laughton and Michael Raffl generated some solid offensive-zone play. The coaching change certainly appears to have resonated with Patrick.

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Flyers vs. Blue Jackets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Blue Jackets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

A fun goalie matchup will be on display Saturday as the Flyers (14-15-4) welcome the Blue Jackets (19-12-3).

Let's look at the essentials:

When: 1 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• It'll be 20-year-old rookie Carter Hart against two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

Hart has fans excited again after winning his first two NHL starts as he made 51 saves on 54 shots to give the Flyers back-to-back wins for the time since Nov. 5-10, when they won three straight.

Bobrovsky, the former Flyer who can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, is 3-0-1 with 106 saves on 110 shots in his last four games. He's also always been a thorn in the Flyers' side, going 12-3-1 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .929 save percentage lifetime against his old club.

• Since Nov. 23, the Flyers have the NHL's sixth-best penalty kill at 86.8 percent. Overall, the unit is still tied for 29th in the league, which shows you just how low it was before these improvements.

Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon has been known for his PK work at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Flyers killed off all six of the Predators' power-play opportunities in Thursday's 2-1 win. Gordon had a good quote Friday about how things work now with assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who oversees the penalty kill.

We sit and we have conversations and we talk about the different challenges that each team brings. So as we sit and we talk, there's a situation that Nashville does, as we're talking about what they're doing and how we're going to defend it, I said to Lappy, 'This is what we did in Lehigh, but you make the decision. If you think the guys are going to be more comfortable doing what we're doing, then we stick with it. If you think that this might be a good adjustment, then we'll make the adjustment.' So I leave it in his hands. 

Sometimes different ideas open up different thought processes. Like yesterday, we talked about the neutral zone, how we wanted to do something, and I had it mapped out and (assistant coach) Kris Knoblauch said to me, 'What do you think if we put this guy in this spot instead of the original spot?' So there's always a sharing of information that goes on when you're discussing what your strategy is going to be against a different opponent.

• The Flyers' power play, however, is now dead last in the NHL at 12.1 percent, which is mind-boggling considering all the talent on the unit. 

The man advantage is 7 for 79 (8.9 percent) since Oct. 13. The Blue Jackets have the next-fewest power-play goals over that span with 12.

• Here's a look at why Gordon likes Claude Giroux at center for now — and it has something to do with Nolan Patrick.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny 
Jakub Voracek-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Michael Raffl
Oskar Lindblom-Phil Varone-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Travis Sanheim-Ivan Provorov
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Andrew MacDonald-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Carter Hart
Michal Neuvirth

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