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.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.