Monday, July 22, 2013
Sergei Bobrovsky, can you do that again?
By Paul Grant
Who says players can't succeed in Columbus? Sergei Bobrovsky proved a lot of people wrong.
Sergei Bobrovsky had a bittersweet taste in his mouth last summer when he was dealt by the Flyers to the Blue Jackets. On the one hand, he was getting away from the Philly goalie circus that featured, but was not limited to, much talk of fellow netminder Ilya Bryzgalov's fear of bears. On the other hand, Bobrovsky was going to hockey purgatory: The Blue Jackets have never been good and have struggled to attract both fans and respect. So for a goalie looking to make a name for himself, it was an interesting opportunity. He'd get a chance to play outside of the hockey spotlight and play a lot as a No. 1, but he could very well turn out shell-shocked like Denis Lemieux in "Slap Shot," deliriously twitching at phantom shots in the dressing room between periods.
Short-season mojo: Bobrovsky stood tall against the barrage long enough that he outlasted a lame-duck GM (who brought him in, but, still) who was replaced by a forward-thinker who put some decent players on the ice. All told, in 38 games, Bobrovsky finished second in the NHL with a .932 save percentage and fifth with a 2.00 goals-against average. He went 21-11-6 and won the Vezina Trophy. Not a bad rebound, huh? The Blue Jackets narrowly missed the playoffs, but Bobrovsky established himself as a stopper to be reckoned with.
Why it will be tough to repeat: Or did he? We're turning it up a notch here, people, in 2013-14. Ready? Here goes: The Blue Jackets are now in the Metrosexual or something Division, which includes the Flyers (whoops!), Penguins and Capitals, and the latter two teams have a tad more offense than the Nashville Predators. Add to that the full 82-game schedule that will be compacted similarly to his big season, but for nearly twice as long. And there's that little thing called the Olympics, which Bobrovsky has a good shot at playing in, if not starting ... for the home country, under Philly-like pressure. Bobrovsky was by no means bad while getting little chance to string together games in Philly, but the stakes are higher as the defending Vezina winner.
Verdict: Oh, and the guy is coming off signing a huge contract (two years, $11.25 million), so cash motivation is gone. That, plus the factors listed above, make it tough to imagine "the Bob" doing anything but faltering in 2013-14.