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.

Golden Knights can’t contain excitement in getting a healthy goalie back

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Everyone, you can downgrade the Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie situation from “absurd” to … I don’t know, tenuous?

Eh, we can fuss over the right way to describe the situation any time. For now, the Golden Knights are delighted that Malcolm Subban has been activated from IR, as mentioned on their official website, and boy was it mentioned on Twitter.

The fawning borders on “Your friend who’s fallen into puppy love and is totally overwhelmed, making it both adorable and kind of annoying.”

Aw.

Sheesh, we get i–

*rolls eyes*

At least it all started with this helpful update on who’s healthy and who’s not:

Meanwhile, Dylan Ferguson returns to the WHL.

OK, so let’s take a look at how that big group did so far, remembering that the Golden Knights are still keeping it going with a fairly astounding 11-6-1 record.

Marc-Andre Fleury: 3-1-0, .925 save percentage, suffered what might have been a concussion.

Maxime Lagace: 3-5-1, .864 save percentage, didn’t fall apart altogether despite being wildly inexperienced for the task at hand.

Oscar Dansk: 3-0-0, .946 save percentage. When he got hurt, things went from ridiculous to absurd.

Subban: 2-0-0, .936 save percentage. He’s back, did you hear?

Ferguson: One goal allowed, one save in 9:14 of play.

*takes a breath*

So, yeah. that’s quite the run of netminders. Subban was playing remarkably well before he was injured, and it’s worth remembering that the Golden Knights essentially chose him over Calvin Pickard. Time will tell if that’s the right decision for the franchise, but right now, they’re clearly over the moon just to have a more NHL-appropriate goalie available again.

Sometimes it’s about the simplest things in life, eh?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

McDavid, Gretzky, Toews to be enshrined in toast

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Ever wanted the face of (a hockey) God etched on the side of your toast as you awake from your nightly slumber?

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to give the gift of toast during the holiday season.

By some well-timed divine intervention, your prayers have been answered.

The Son of Hockey, McJesus (or Connor McDavid for those living under the meme rock) will be available to all who are willing to receive its breakfast blessings come Nov. 20 from Canadian Tire.

Canadian Tire has teamed up with McDavid, the ‘Great One’ Wayne Gretzky and ‘Captain Serious’ Jonathan Toews to #GiveAToast, and to help advertise the new face-on-toast engravers, three satirical (and quite frankly hilarious) commercials have been released on YouTube.

All proceeds from the sale of McDavid’s divine toaster, along with Gretzky’s ‘The Great Toaster,’ winner of four “Stanley Crusts” and Toews’ ‘The Toewster’ will go to help support Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program, which “gives kids from families in financial need the same chance to participate in sport as their neighbours, their classmates and their friends.”

All three commercials are really well done, but Toews’ shines above the other two.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion claims his toaster studies the opponent in his commercial. He professes that he doesn’t even eat toast but that he uses it to toast the chia seeds he throws into his smoothies (it won’t actually toast chia seeds, or at least that’s what on-screen pop-up warns.)

It remains to be seen if these bread crispers turn into the next Furby or Tickle Me Elmo and cause mass hysteria.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Red Wings on Witkowski suspension: ‘Punishment doesn’t fit the crime’

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A sports league doles out suspensions and fines for a variety of reasons, including the hope that losing game checks might deter future bad behavior.

When it comes to the fans, many want justice, and that’s where things can get a little fuzzier. It’s especially interesting to consider areas of subjectivity vs. rules that are as plain as day.

One can see shades of the frustration that comes from the over-the-glass delay of game penalty in the reactions to Detroit Red Wings winger Luke Witkowski getting an automatic 10-game suspension for returning to the ice during that wild brawl, egged on by Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames.

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill hit the nail on the head in that regard.

For Witkowski, it’s a painful lesson that he needs to find a happy medium between following the rules and engaging in “old-time hockey.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Witkowski said, via the Red Wings website. “Honestly, I didn’t know that was a rule. I obviously, I know now. I knew it was a rule you couldn’t jump the boards. It’s kind of a gray area with still being on the bench and the door being open. But lesson learned, I guess. Move on from here.”

The sad truth for Witkowski, 27, is that he won’t be eligible to move on in the form of a game until Dec. 9. And that’s assuming that he won’t get passed by as far as roster changes go.

Perhaps the silver lining is that other players might learn from Witkowski’s mistake and avoid drawing that automatic suspension. We’ve seen it before, such as with David Clarkson‘s delayed debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so there are some examples for NHL players willing to play attention.

Besides, it’s tough to miss a brawl like that, which you can watch one more time in the video above this post’s headline.

As far as Tkachuk goes, we’re still waiting to find out if he’ll sit a few games himself. He’s reportedly having a telephone hearing with the NHL to determine supplemental discipline.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Streaking Maple Leafs could get Matthews back at just the right time

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Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock must be delighted by how his team is winning games.

Most obviously, they’ve been doing so without Auston Matthews, who’s currently dealing with an upper-body injury. The Leafs won their fifth consecutive game 1-0 in OT thanks to William Nylander‘s slump-breaking goal, and Toronto’s played the last four without Matthews.

The variety of wins – some in overtime, some with outstanding goaltending, many likely boosting other talents who step up – must really encourage Babs. And that confidence could come in handy very soon.

The Athletic’s James Mirtle breaks down how they’ve been winning and who’s stepped up in Matthews absence, so check that out for more in that regard (sub required).

That’s all good stuff, but here’s the thing: the Maple Leafs are lucky that Matthews seems like he’s nearing his return, because the rest of 2017 presents a beast of a schedule. Before we get to that, consider that Matthews appears to be a gametime decision for Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens:

So, obviously, that’s not a guarantee that he’ll play. It implies that he’s at least getting closer, though.

Feast your eyes on the remainder of the Maple Leafs’ schedule during this calendar year, which might prompt a New Year’s resolution of “Let’s just try to forget what we just went through.” The away games are bolded, with back-to-backs underlined.

Sat, Nov 18 @ Montreal
Mon, Nov 20 vs Arizona
Wed, Nov 22 @ Florida
Fri, Nov 24 @ Carolina
Sat, Nov 25 vs Washington
Tue, Nov 28 @ Calgary
Thu, Nov 30 @ Edmonton
Sat, Dec 2 @ Vancouver
Wed, Dec 6 vs Calgary
Sat, Dec 9 @ Pittsburgh
Sun, Dec 10 vs Edmonton
Tue, Dec 12 @ Philadelphia
Thu, Dec 14 @ Minnesota
Fri, Dec 15 @ Detroit
Tue, Dec 19 vs Carolina
Wed, Dec 20 @ Columbus
Sat, Dec 23 @ NY Rangers
Thu, Dec 28 @ Arizona
Fri, Dec 29 @ Colorado
Sun, Dec 31 @ Vegas

The Maple Leafs play 15 of their next 20 games on the road. The final stretch is especially rough, with a five-game road trip and eight of nine away from home. There are also five back-to-back sets.

So, it’s great that the Maple Leafs have manufactured ways to win without their brilliant top forward. That said, as Mirtle points out, they’ve been outplayed pretty badly at times in those games, and you wonder how long that luck (and timely work, to be fair) can last.

From the look of things, the Maple Leafs might not have to worry too much about that, and Matthews’ return couldn’t come at a much better time.

Not that it will be easy even with him, especially since he might not be at full-strength right away.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.