Goaltending can make or break a team's chances in the postseason.
Heading into the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Columbus Blue Jackets figured to have the edge between the pipes with Sergei Bobrovsky, widely expected to capture the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie.
That edge looked even larger when Matt Murray, the Pittsburgh Penguins' top goaltender this season, was injured during warmups prior to the first game of the series.
Enter Marc-Andre Fleury, an afterthought at goal for the Penguins for much of the season. He would be anything but, thoroughly outplaying Bobrovsky on the way to leading Pittsburgh to a 4–1 series win.
|Sergei Bobrovsky||Marc-Andre Fleury|
|EV SV||PP SV||SH SV||Saves||SV%||GA||EV SV||PP SV||SH SV||Saves||SV%||GA|
Sure, it's a five-game sample size, but the facts speak loudly.
Bobrovsky, who led the NHL with a .931 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against during the regular season left Pittsburgh Thursday night with an .882 save percentage and having allowed 20 goals in the five games, good enough for a 3.88 goals-against average on the way to a 1–4 record.
Fluery, on the other hand, bounced the Blue Jackets in five games, saving .933 of the shots he faced and compiling a 2.52 goals-against average. He started strong, holding the Blue Jackets to just two goals combined in the first two games as Columbus swarmed him with 72 shots in Games 1 and 2.
He was at his best, however, in the clinching Game 5, when he turned away 49 of the 51 shots the Blue Jackets sent his way (.961).
Some might claim Fleury didn't field as many quality scoring chances, but the numbers don't support that thinking. After a slow start in the series, the Blue Jackets ended up getting to the middle of the ice often, illustrated no better than by their barrage in Game 5.
It's tough to criticize Bobrovsky right now. Without him, the Blue Jackets may not even be a playoff team. If Columbus hopes to make it past the first round next season, they'll need a lot more out of its star goalie.