A Different Bobrovsky in this year's Playoffs
By Patrick Hoffman
When it comes to playoff hockey, you need good goaltending in order to give your team a fighting chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Columbus Blue Jackets' goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky did not provide that for his hockey club in the 2014, 2017, and 2018 playoffs. In fact, he was pretty much awful and was the main reason why his team never made it out of the first round.
Not only was Bobrovsky awful in 2014, 2017, and 2018, but he's been bad in the playoffs in general. Hockey writer Emily Kaplan of ESPN pointed out the following regarding Bobrovsky's statistics coming into this year's playoffs in an article written on Friday, May 3:
"Between 2011 and 2018, Bobrovsky went 5-14 in the playoffs, with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bobrovsky allowed at least three goals in 79 percent of his postseason appearances in that span, by far the most of any goalie with at least 10 appearances."
That has certainly changed in this year's playoffs. Not only are the Blue Jackets even in their second round series against the Boston Bruins at two games apiece, but they swept the league's best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first round quite convincingly.
While Bobrovsky is not the main reason why his team is having success in this year's playoffs, he has certainly been a factor. Instead of being a liability like he was in previous postseasons, he's been mister reliable this year.
As of this writing (May 3), Bobrovsky is 6-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. In terms of goaltenders in these playoffs, Bobrovsky is third in goals-against average, third in save percentage, and tied for first with five other goaltenders with six wins.
He has been an absolute rock for his club in this postseason. Unlike the last two postseasons, he has come up with the big save when his team needed one the most, he has kept his team in just about every game in this postseason, and his game in general has been night and day in terms of what he did in the playoffs in 2017 and 2018.
In these playoffs, he has been sound positionally, has done a great job of swallowing up pucks, has been great at being square to the shooter, and he's also kept his game simple. He hasn't had to make a ton of acrobatic saves because he is already in good position to stop both the original shot and any rebounds that come from the original shot.
His strong play this spring could not have come at a better time for him. He is due to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season and if he keeps playing this way, he is going to command the big bucks.
For right now, I am sure that Bobrovsky is focused on the task at hand and is going to continue to show us that he can be a great goalie when it matters most.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.