Bobrovsky Needs to be Better in the Playoffs
By Patrick Hoffman
When it comes to the playoffs in the sports, there will always be great players that step up for their team when it matters the most.
That does not appear to be something that Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky adheres to. "Bob" clearly struggles in hockey's second season.
There is no doubt that Bobrovsky is a great regular season goaltender. This is a guy that has won two Vezina Trophies as the league's top goaltender, has been an All-Star, has won over 200 career games, and has posted pretty solid numbers with a career goals against average of 2.44 with a 92 save percentage.
When it comes to the playoffs, however, it is a much different story. Just look at how bad these numbers are:
2011: 3.23 GAA; .877 save percentage
2012: 8.11 GAA; .722 save percentage
2014: 3.17 GAA; .908 save percentage
2017: 3.88 GAA; .882 save percentage
2018: 3.18 GAA; .900 save percentage
Numbers like these do not get teams past the first round, which is something Bob has not been able to help the Blue Jackets do in three tries. Yes, the blame cannot solely be placed on him, but he has certainly been an issue in the playoffs for this hockey club.
This has also been obvious to team head coach John Tortorella on multiple occasions. Here is what he said after this year's playoff performance against the Washington Capitals:
"At times, we didn't get a big save. That goes right on through the team. I'm not just saying (Bobrovsky), but the whole team. That's why you're out in six. It's tough in the playoffs. We have a number of things we need to get better at, as individuals and as a team."
Tortorella also told the following to Columbus Dispatch reporter Steve Gorton regarding Bob's play in the playoffs:
"Sometimes we talk about goaltending, and if you say anything about that situation ... you can't touch that. But he is one of the players on our team and he doesn't fall into another category. We cannot say he's all set. He has to be better. It's the main piece to winning in the playoffs and I think Bob understands that."
We all know that Torts can be tough on players. Heck, he's known for being tough on players that he thinks should be their leaders and perform well when expected to.
Clearly, this has not been the case for Bobrovsky in April. While he was okay this year, he was still not enough to help his team get into the next round, even when they were up two games in the series.
Bob dealt with this playoff issue story line all season long since it is clear come April, he has not performed up to standards. In fact, it was even suggested that he should see a sports psychologist, to which he responded:
"I can't control a lot of things around me," said Bobrovsky, a two time Vezina Trophy award winner. "The only thing I can control (is) myself, you know? After this season, I completely disagree if anybody will say that I need to a psychologist."
I agree with Bob when he says that he might not need a psychologist. It is clear that during the regular season, he performs at the highest level every night and is one of the best goaltenders in the world.
With that said, he's just different in the playoffs. Sure, he made some big saves in Games 1 and 2, but what really matters is that he did not come up with the big save when his team needed it the most.
There is no doubt that Bobrovsky needs to change something when it comes to his play in the playoffs. He cannot continue to allow at least three goals every game because it puts his team in a bad position and when you're the Blue Jackets, a team that is not known for scoring a ton of goals, that is a problem.
No one is doubting how good Bobrovsky is. He is one of the best and hardest working masked men in the entire league.
If he truly wants to be known as one of the greats, however, he needs to step up his game in the postseason.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.