Sergei Bobrovsky discusses playoff struggles, addition of Ilya Bryzgalov

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It’s tough to tell how Sergei Bobrovsky should feel this summer.

On one hand, the Russian goalie would be justified in feeling a bit slighted. Bobrovsky burst onto the scene for the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2010-11 season, earning a strong 28-13-8 record with a solid .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA, but the team gave him a short leash in the playoffs. After losing Game 1 of the Flyers’ first round series against the Buffalo Sabres thanks to Ryan Miller’s brilliance, Bobrovsky had an awful Game 2 in which he allowed three goals on just seven shots. It’s understandable that the Flyers decided to go with Brian Boucher for Game 3, but it seemed a bit harsh to demote Bobrovsky all the way down to third place on the depth chart. Bobrovsky eventually started in the playoffs again, but the Flyers dug themselves too deep a hole to come back against the Boston Bruins at that point.

If that wasn’t enough to leave “Bob” with a bad taste in his mouth during the off-season, the Flyers gave their No.1 goalie keys to Ilya Bryzgalov by trading for him and them handing the more-proven Russian netminder a risky, long-term deal.

That would seem like a slap in the face to some, but others might take a bigger picture viewpoint that Bobrovsky could actually be in the right place in his young career. His rookie season was impressive, but it also seemed like he jumped quite a few steps in his expected development process. Backing up Bryzgalov – or fighting him for starts, depending on how you look at it – might end up being a short-term benefit to Bobrovsky.

It seems like that perspective isn’t lost on Bob, who had an interesting discussion that Dmitry Chensokov translated for Puck Daddy on Tuesday.

And this summer the Flyers signed a contract with Ilya Bryzgalov placing a barrier on the way of a rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Actually Bryzgalov’s arrival didn’t shock me. Every newspaper wrote that goaltending is Philadelphia’s weakest spot. Additionally, Ilya was first traded to us and only a week later he signed his contract. It wasn’t a surprise.

I don’t agree about the barrier. Brian Boucher’s(notes) contract expired. Michael Leighton(notes) stayed. Bryzgalov came. But I don’t care what last names team goaltenders have. I have my own goals, objectives. I want to help Philadelphia and will continue to improve my game.

Bobrovsky’s saying all the right things about his situation with Philadelphia. While it’s possible that he might find himself in a different destination at some point in the future thanks to the cost of his entry-level contract and the even larger commitment the Flyers made to Breezy, Philly would be wise to keep Bob in the fold as an insurance policy. Other NHL teams have benefited from having a strong backup behind a franchise starter; Tuukka Rask and Cory Schneider provided valuable rest for Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo last season (just to name two).

Moving on, the other interesting nugget reveals that you might be able to pinpoint at least some of Bobrovsky’s late-season and playoff struggles to fatigue.

The fact that you deflated in the second half of last season — is it connected to the fact that you “had had too much hockey?”

I think so. It turned out that by November I had been playing hockey for five months. And then the rollercoaster started: up and down. But I am not going to look for excuses for my shortcomings. This is my life and I set up the preparations myself. And I alone am responsible. I simply came to some conclusions and this summer I decided to make some changes.

If you ask me, the Flyers mishandled Bobrovsky’s situation in the playoffs, taking excessively punitive measures with a goalie who helped them win the Atlantic Division. That being said, this situation might end up being beneficial to both sides, even if Bob probably wants to be the No. 1 goalie next season.

You never know if public statements actually match deeper feelings, but if his statements are truthful, then it seems like Bobrovsky has a healthy attitude about a tough situation. If nothing else, these signs of maturity might justify the Flyers’ thoughts that he could be their goalie of the future.

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

(h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

“Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

 

43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

“Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.