Flyers Back Bobrovsky For Winter Classic Start

1 Jan

CITIZENS BANK PARK — They’re almost like polar opposites. Sergei Bobrovsky is calm and quiet. He rarely shows emotion, even if he’s on the wrong end of a blowout game. Ilya Bryzgalov, for better or worse, wears his heart on his sleeve.

With the entire hockey world watching, the Flyers will turn to Bobrovsky in the Winter Classic on Monday at 3 p.m. The team confirmed that Bobrovsky will start after Bryzgalov dramatically announced his benching following the team’s practice.

But Philadelphia is used to drama in the goal crease. There isn’t really any outrage over Bryzgalov starting the game. In fact, the Flyers were quick to credit Bobrovsky who quietly works behind the scenes.

“Talking with Bob last year when we were having our end-of-the-year meetings, he struggled at the end of the year and he knew it,” said Scott Hartnell. “I think he’s a little tired from playing 30 games to playing 50 or whatever he played. He said ‘I’m not sure if we’re going to get a goalie next year, but I want to be No. 1.’

“I think that’s given him fuel to work out every day after practice and when he gets a chance to play to be great. He deserves the start. He’s played great. I think it’s great to have healthy competition between the two.”

Hartnell isn’t alone.

“Credit to Bob. He works hard. He always stays late,” said Braydon Coburn. “He’s in unbelievable shape. People forget he was a rookie last year. The confidence I’ve seen him play with this year has been impressive. Good for him because he’s played well for us.”

This season, Bobrovsky is 8-2-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He was reluctant to talk about the opportunity to start in the Winter Classic, but his smile showed his interest.

“It doesn’t matter who starts because the most important thing is the result,” said Bobrovsky through a translator. “It’s a real game. It’s two points on the line, so it’ll be special, but the result is the most important thing.”

While Bobrovsky was talking about the seriousness of another regular season game, one against the Rangers who have beaten the Flyers twice already this year, Bryzgalov was caddy-corner in the dressing room, talking about what kind of tea he’ll be drinking from a thermos on the bench.

“It’ll be Earl Gray probably. Lemon, lots of sugar. Sweet. I hope I have enough for the whole game,” said Bryzgalov. “It’s supposed to be colder [on Monday], so we’ll see. I’ll probably make sure I have enough towels. I always wear long underwear and I usually wear lingerie too… what have you guys gotten from this conversation? Basically nothing, right?

“People don’t care how I feel. They want a show. They want entertainment. You remember Rome right? Antique Rome, the Roman Empire? What did the people want? Gladiators and bread. That’s all they wanted. The crowd hasn’t changed. It’s still the same. It’s going to be the same in the future.”

While Bryzgalov has certainly stolen the show this year, Bobrovsky hasn’t regressed at all after playing 54 games his rookie year. It can be a tough thing to do to take a seat in the back after spending most of the year in the driver’s position.

“I haven’t seen any of that from him,” said Coburn. “This guy probably is the last guy to leave from the practice rink every day. I know, because I’m usually the second to last.

“This guy works his butt off every day. He’s always out there keeping himself in shape and you can see the mental preparation he does before games. He’s kind of a little bit on an opposite to Bryz. He’s easygoing and Bryz is a personality.”

Bobrovsky did, however, admit it’s been tough.

“It’s not up to me,” he said. “It’s not my choice and there’s no other way. In comparison to playing every game, it is more difficult to be as confident and as prepared because I never know when I’ll start. There’s no rhythm for the preparation.”

Everyone will likely be a little thrown off by playing outdoors in the Winter Classic on Monday, so he won’t be alone in his awkward feeling. But he’ll be in there. Calm and quiet, Sergei Bobrovsky will be between the pipes.

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