Sergei Bobrovsky Exorcised His Playoff Demons Against the Tampa Bay Lightning

By Chris Pennington on April 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm
In four games against the Tampa Bay Lightning this postseason, Sergei Bobrovsky recorded a 2.00 GAA and a .932 SV%
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky must have been bumping a lot of Joan Jett last week.

because he didn't give one damn about his (bad) playoff reputation.

In a historic sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the prized goaltender and one of the best players in franchise history for the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to flip a (figurative?) switch and play better than he ever had before in the postseason.

Bobrovsky finally played like a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, and in four games against the Lightning, was one of the best players on the ice for Columbus. By series end, he had stopped 109 of 117 shots, good for a .932 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.

Not many folks projected him to play this well. Before the series even began and it became clear that the Blue Jackets would be facing the Lightning, the memes and trolling took off regarding the expected dismantling that Bobrovsky was certain to endure.

Somewhat understandably so, though, because his opponent was one greatest offensive teams in league history. The Blue Jackets were swimming upstream and without Bobrovsky on top of his game, their 2019 playoff stay might be a short one. "Playoff Bob" would have to stay behind in 2018 for Columbus to have a chance against the Lightning, and despite a shaky start, Bobrovsky shed the label emphatically.

In his 17 postseason games with the Blue Jackets prior to this series, Bobrovsky had allowed fewer than three goals only once, saddled with a sub-.900 SV% and a goals-against average (3.64) that would look better as a grade point average. 

The Blue Jackets were in a 3-0 hole and they looked lost. Tampa Bay had, at that point, outscored Columbus 20-3 including three regular season games.

If that game goes to 4-0 in favor of the Lightning, does Bobrovsky get pulled? Are the Blue Jackets in a completely different spot?

Then, the flip switched. Bobrovsky was razor-sharp in the second and third periods of Game 1 and made a series-defining save just before Nick Foligno scored the 3-1 goal to get them going.

And that save will be one to look back on, as it helped shift the tide of that game, and ended with a series victory for the Blue Jackets – the first in club history.

Even in the clinching Game 4 on Tuesday night where Bobrovsky let in three goals, he made 30 saves and was as clutch as can be in the third period to close out the series for his team. The Blue Jackets were on their heels and the Lightning were firing on all cylinders. If Tampa Bay won that's hard to think of what may have happened.

Sergei Bobrovsky Columbus Blue Jackets Playoff Statistics
Year Record GAA SV%
2014 2-4 3.33 .908
2017 1-4 4.00 .882
2018 2-4 3.66 .900
2019 4-0 2.00 .932

A final word of hope as we truck along this postseason: From the second period of Game 1 and on, Bobrovsky let in just four more goals and stopped 100 of 105 shots for a .952 save%. If this is any indication of the form that will continue for the remainder of this Blue Jackets postseason run, don't be too surprised if you see the club playing deep into the spring.

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