Note: For those that already voted, I restructured the poll and tossed the previous poll, as I realized that 90.5% to 92.5% was going to be too broad of a category. It was a tyrannical thing to do, and I apologize. If you still trust me, please vote again, and I promise I won't scrap this one. --- Nov. 13th ~2pm
I'll acknowledge right off the bat that I have a certain set of biases; I was a sceptic of Sergei Bobrovsky early on, more for lack of seeking information about him than anything. I think it's fair to act that way, particularly when someone plays at the level he has without any prior NHL experience. It's also fair to act that way because I'm a Rangers fan, which is also a part of my bias.
Now, as Michael Leighton nears his return, there's definitely an element of "what do we do now?" in Philly. Let me be one to say, having looked at his history, that it would be a travesty to not give this kid a shot as (at least) the 60 in a 60-40 timeshare this year.
Bobrovsky was viewed as somewhat of an unknown coming out of Russia, but that's as much of a testament to our view of the KHL as it is of his play. It's possibly more instructive to adopt a longer lens; over the last two years, Bobrovsky has been one of the best goalies in the KHL despite playing on one of its worst teams. His team, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, was 4th to last and last place in the first two years of the KHL, respectively, with Bobrovsky playing approximately half of their games. While his record reflected the atrocious performance of the team (12-36-3), he amassed a save percentage of 92.3%,* and helped his team allow the 12th and 11th (tied) fewest goals in those two seasons. His goaltender teammates had a save percentage of 91% over that same time. That 92.3% easily placed him in the top 10 those two years, despite being one of the league's younger goalies playing on one of the worst teams (poor man's Vokoun?).
These numbers weren't against soft opponents, either. Metallurg Novokuznetsk shares the Chernyshev Division with some of the best offensive players in the KHL, including Jaromir Jagr, Alexander Radulov, Lukas Kaspar, and Patrick Thoresen. It would be unfair to propose that Bobrovsky hasn't seen nearly-NHL level competition.
Post-Bobrovsky Metallurg Novokuznetsk continues to perform at the bottom of the KHL, but this year their bottom has fallen out. On a similar team (personnel-wise), MN's goaltending is now stopping shots at 89.8%. Not only are they dead-last in their conference; at 19 points in 25 games, they are 3 points below the next-poorest team, who has only played 21 games.
There's going to be a sense that Michael Leighton is owed something for his contributions to the Flyers' Cup run, and there's something to be said for that. But Bobrovsky has made it over a month playing solid hockey, and two years of solid hockey before that; even personality-wise he seems to be meeting the challenges of the NHL. It's early, yes, but even I have to admit that the Flyers may have something. Hopefully they don't let it slip.**
* Can't find any even-strength save percentage from the KHL; anybody run into it somewhere?
**Or maybe, secretly, I want it to slip. Haha.