The Fall and Rise of Sergei Bobrovsky

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Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy after the 2012-13 season, posting a .932 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against-average. He would also have a high-danger save percentage (HDSv%) of 82.73% and a low-danger save percentage (LDSv%) of 97.75%. The Columbus Blue Jackets did not make the playoffs that year.

The next year, Bobrovsky would be placed on the Injured Reserve December 4th, 2013 and would not play a game until January 6th, 2014. The Blue Jackets would go on to make the playoffs and Bobrovsky would finish 8th in the Vezina voting.

The Blue Jackets would not make the playoffs in the 2014-15 season and Bobrovsky had an average year with a .918 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against-average. He had a HDSv% of 80.18% and a LDSv% of 98.27%.

After that, things get a little tough.

The Fall, or the 2015-16 Season

That summer, Bobrovsky was the starting goaltender for Team Russia during the 2015 IIHF World Championship and would later go on to help Russia to a silver medal.

During the gold medal game, Bobrovsky allowed six goals on 37 shots, but it was against a Team Canada that was composed of players like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, and Tyler Seguin.

But it looked like things were on the rise. The Blue Jackets were able to lock up Ryan Johansen for two years and he got a shiny new linemate in Brandon Saad. Nick Foligno was coming off a career high year with 32 goals and 42 assists and signed a six-year contract with an AAV of $5.5 million. Foligno was also later named captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Also during that off-season, Bobrovksy gained over ten pounds of muscle in hopes that would decrease the chance of another groin injury.

There was a lot of hope going into the season; media types had predicted Columbus making the playoffs that year.

Then the season started.

The First Eight

After the first four games, Bobrovsky had an average save percentage of .832 and a 5.06 goals-against-average. During the second game of the season, he was pulled after two periods in favor of Curtis McElhinney.

But it was after the fourth game of the season – the fourth loss of the season – that caused the most concern for Bobrovsky.

 

There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ after that. What if Todd Richards had done this, what if Richards hadn’t done that – but the biggest one is what if Richards didn’t play Bobrovsky the game after that statement?

But Richards did play Bobrovsky, and even said that he had full confidence in his goaltender.

The Blue Jackets would lose 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs two nights later.

As the story goes, Columbus would end up losing the first seven games, firing Richards and hiring John Tortorella, then losing one more game before their first win. The thought was that hopefully Tortorella would be able to turn the ship around. No one, players or coaches, thought they’d make the playoffs, but maybe they could finish above dead last.

For a month they looked like a decent hockey team. They won eight games out of 13 in November, including not one, but two 2-1 victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Bobrovsky would win all eight of those games.

Bobrovsky’s Injury and Re-Injury

Bobrovksy would leave the December 8th game against the Los Angeles Kings early and on December 10th, he would be placed on Injured Reserve with a groin strain. Just twenty days later, less than the three weeks he was estimated to be out, he was activated from IR.

Then, just a couple of weeks after that, Columbus would put him back on IR.

Finally, he was activated off of IR and would play January 19th, a 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, and January 21st, a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, before being put back on IR.

 

Bobrovsky would not play again until March 11th.

Joonas Korpisalo would go on to be the Blue Jackets goaltender who led in wins for the season.

The Rise, or the 2016-17 Season

Like the off-season before, Bobrovsky would go off to the IIHF World Championship to play for Team Russia. He would help them to a bronze medal.

Bobrovsky played in nine games, allowed 15 goals, and had a .931 save percentage for the tournament. Even with his incredible play, Blue Jacket fans did not want to get their hopes up that this would be the Bobrovsky that played for them throughout 82 games.

The expectations going into the season were very low. There were projections of Columbus finishing in the bottom ten and that Tortorella would be the first coach fired of the season.

In September, Bobrovsky would be the starting goaltender for Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey.

In pre-tournament game against Team Canada, Bobrovsky would make 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss for Team Russia. Nikita Zaitsev said the goaltender was, “the most important part to our team.”

During the game against Team Finland, Bobrovksy had a 21-save shutout. He also backstopped Team Russia to a 4-3 win against Team North America, arguably one of the most skilled teams, to put them into the semi-finals against Canada. Team Canada was their normal selves and Team Russia lost 5-3, Bobrovsky made 42 saves.

Another important part of Bobrovsky’s off-season was the fact that he lost seventeen pounds, looking to be more lighter instead of bulking up like the last off-season.

October was a slow start for Columbus, winning three games, losing three, and losing the other in overtime. It was a much improved start for the Blue Jackets compared to last year. In the first seven games, Bobrovsky already posted two shutouts, one against the Dallas Stars and the other against the Anaheim Ducks.

His next shutout came November 4th with a 10-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, who had yet to lose a game.

The Streak

From November 29th to January 3rd, the Columbus Blue Jackets did not lose a single game. They won 16 games in a row, good enough for the second longest streak in league history. Bobrovsky would play 14 of those games

For the month of December, Bobrovsky was named first Star of the month for the league. During the month of December he started, and won, 12 games in a row. His save percentage during the month was .939 with a 1.75 goals-against-average. In nine of those 12 starts, he allowed two goals or less.

Bobrovsky was the first Columbus Blue Jacket to ever be named the NHL’s first star of the month.

Playoff Bound

March was an exciting time for the Columbus Blue Jackets for both players and fans. With roughly a month and a half until the regular season came to a close, the countdown into how many games teams had to win before they clinched their spot were circulating around.

March started off with Bobrovsky posting a 38-save shutout against the Minnesota Wild. Three days later, Bobrovsky would get a 20-save shutout against the New Jersey Devils and then two days later he would get his third straight shutout (33 saves) against the New Jersey Devils. Before the three game shutout streak, Bobrovsky lost a 1-0 overtime match against the Montreal Canadiens. He had not given up a regulation goal in four games.

At the end of March, in the game against the Devils, Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets would win 4-1. With that win, Columbus earned themselves just their third trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bobrovsky Making the Case for a 2nd Vezina

After the 16-game win streak, many were saying that the Vezina was Bobrovsky’s to lose.

He finished the season with a .931 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against-average, after starting in 63 of 82 games. He also had seven shutouts throughout those 63 games.

Bobrovsky also had a HDSv% of 84.1%. This was the second highest HDSv% for goalies playing more than 50 games. Only Carey Price had a higher HDSv% at a 85.27%, playing in one less game than Bobrovsky did.

His save percentage while Columbus was on the penalty kill was an 89.27%,  with a HDSv% of 77.23%. His save percentage at even strength was 93.83%, with a HDSv% of 85.49%.

Bobrovsky would later win the Vezina, becoming the only active goaltender to have won it twice.

A Tale of Two Bobrovsky’s

The Bobrovsky we saw in 2015-16 probably isn’t close to the Bobrovsky we’ll see this season, but that doesn’t mean the 2016-17 Bobrovsky was a fluke. 

Last year, Bobrovsky set all sorts of new records that he most likely won’t break the very next year. Having a goals-agaisnt-average just above two goals is very hard to do, especially with playing over 60 games like he did last year. He got extremely lucky in not getting injured and having defensemen like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski helping him out.

The team this year got younger, and with that comes rookie mistakes. Currently, there’s one rookie defenseman, Gabriel Carlsson, and two rookie forwards, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sonny Milano.

Bobrovsky most likely isn’t going to playing over 60 games, which means Korpisalo will have to make some starts and have to solidify his back-up position.

But a Vezina repeat?

Most fans would rather see Bobrovsky healthy and the Blue Jackets win their first playoff series.  

Main Photo:

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