June 3, 2010
Ex-Flame Boucher on the rebound
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
Rebounds are typically on the list of things NHL goaltenders try to avoid.
In Brian Boucher’s case, bouncing back from a disappointing stint in Calgary a few years back has led him to the Stanley Cup final.
Although Michael Leighton has been clinging to the Philadelphia Flyers’ starting role since Boucher sprained his knee last month, the former Flame has played a huge role in the Flyers’ Cinderella story.
Re-establishing himself as a dependable netminder down the stretch in the regular-season to help the Flyers squeak into the playoffs, Boucher outplayed New Jersey Devils legend Martin Brodeur in the first round as Philly eliminated the Eastern Conference’s second seed.
Hurt during the second period of the Flyers’ second win over the Boston Bruins, Boucher’s play to that point helped spark an historic series comeback after dropping the first three games.
With every Chicago Blackhawks goal scores in the final, the 33-year-old earns more camera time now that he’s back on the bench.
It may now be a question of when, not if, he gets another playoff start.
After his partner was lit up four times during Game 1, Boucher came on in relief and showed some rust. But that rust was nothing compared to the way he felt as a member of the Flames in 2005-06.
Brought over from the Phoenix Coyotes in February to provide experience behind Miikka Kiprusoff, Boucher spent most of his time with the Flames on the bench.
Winning his debut against the St. Louis Blues was the highlight of his brief time in Calgary.
Road losses in Nashville and Anaheim were his only other two appearances.
“I don’t know that I enjoyed playing three games in three months,” Boucher told QMI prior to Wednesday’s Game 3 in Philadelphia.
“It was a difficult experience at that point in my career because I don’t think I was ready for that role just yet.
“I don’t understand why they traded for me.”
The reasoning, from a Flames point of view, seemed simple. Darryl Sutter didn’t have much faith in Philippe Sauve and Kiprusoff was nursing a hip injury that kept him out of the Olympics.
Feeling healthy after the break, Kiprusoff continued to play nearly every game. The lack of playing time put Boucher — owner of a modern-day shutout streak of 332 minutes — on the backburner when it came to free-agent offers following his time with the Flames.
“I think that trade to Calgary hurt my career to some degree because I was typecast as a backup,” Boucher said.
Faced with a long climb that included stops in Chicago, Columbus and the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, it was an opportunity provided by the San Jose Sharks that really put Boucher back on the NHL map.
Signed midway through the 2007-08 season, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder played well enough to earn a deal for the next year.
Shining in place of Evgeni Nabokov when the Sharks franchise goalie was hurt last season, Boucher played more than 20 games for the first time since the lockout and racked up a 12-6-3 record as a reliever.
That brought him back to Philly, the team that took him in the first round at the 1995 NHL draft. A team he led to within one game of the Stanley Cup final in 2000 during his most incredible playoff run before this one.
It wasn’t easy making it back.
“I’m a pretty strong-willed guy and I have the drive,” Boucher said of his struggle and resurfacing since the Flames cameo.
“I don’t feel I’m done. I know there are some people who feel that way, but I still feel good about my game.
“It’s just a matter of being in the right place. People say opportunity needs to meet preparation. Sometimes you’re prepared and you don’t get the opportunity. You need both.”
When opportunity knocks again, Boucher is ready.