Sergei Bobrovsky, the Florida Panthers goaltender, is currently the favorite to win the Conn Smythe as the playoffs’ MVP. However, Bobrovsky’s success did not come overnight. He was once a promising young netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers, but the team traded him away in 2012 to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov. Bobrovsky’s time with the Flyers was short, but it started with such promise. The Flyers signed the skinny, 21-year-old Bobrovsky from KHL side Metallurg Novokuznetsk on May 6, 2010. The early returns couldn’t have been better, as Bobrovsky beat out veteran Brian Boucher for the starting job. He then reeled off an 11-3-1 record to start his career, posting a .932 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average in the process.
Bobrovsky had his ups and downs from there, but he finished seventh in Calder Trophy voting and was unquestionably the league’s top rookie goaltender. However, Bobrovsky’s poor postseason was the beginning of the end for him on Broad Street. After losing a 1-0 decision in his first playoff start against Buffalo, he was pulled in favor of Boucher early in his second start after allowing three goals on seven shots to begin Game 2. Peter Laviolette continued to play goalie musical chairs from there with Boucher and Leighton, using Bobrovsky only in mop-up duty until handing him his third playoff start in Game 4 of the second round against Boston. He stopped 22 of 25 shots in that start, and could hardly be blamed for the loss as the Bruins finished off the four-game sweep.
The Flyers made a blockbuster move in the form of signing Bryzgalov, previously of the Phoenix Coyotes, to a nine-year, $51 million contract. Bryzgalov, 30 at the time, was coming off two excellent seasons in which he had posted save percentages above .920. The trade made Bryzgalov the highest-paid goalie in the NHL and was spearheaded by late Flyers owner Ed Snider as the team went all in to try and win a Stanley Cup. The move meant a backup role for Bobrovsky and signaled the Flyers’ full commitment to the elder Russian goaltender. Brygalov was solid if inconsistent during his first season in Philadelphia, winning 33 games and posting a .909 save percentage before completely unraveling in the postseason. Meanwhile, Bobrovsky struggled in a backup role (.899 SV% in 25 games) and was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets that offseason for three picks.
Since leaving the Flyers, Bobrovsky has won two Vezina Trophies and is tied with Marc-Andre Fleury for the NHL’s most wins (318) and tied for eighth in save percentage (.916) among goalies (min. 300 games played). Meanwhile, Bryzgalov’s struggles in Philadelphia continued, and he was bought out after just his second season. Bobrovsky’s current playoff magic almost never happened, but he has led the unlikeliest of runs by the Panthers. With Florida now just five wins away from winning a Stanley Cup, and given Bobrovsky’s career arc since leaving Philly, the Flyers have to regret their decision to sign Bryzgalov and subsequently trade Bobrovsky away so quickly.
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