If there were ever a season to exorcise his playoff demons, it's this one.
Coming up on an expiring contract this summer, Columbus Blue Jackets' goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has surely had his most interesting season as a member of the club.
There's been stretches where it looks like his age and the contract drama have finally caught up to him - and then there's games, like last night, where he reminds everyone that he's still the best goaltender in the NHL.
Bobrovsky is the only active goaltender to have two Vezina trophies (2014, 2017). But he also does not have a playoff series win under his belt, just like many of his teammates.
In his playoff career, Bobrovsky has played in 24 games, but has only allowed less than three goals in five of those games - and only one as a Blue Jacket. That performance came in a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 26, 2014, where Bobrovsky was pulled for the final goal.
Struggling under the big lights have always been his biggest critique - though this sort of criticism isn't abnormal for a lot of top goaltenders in the NHL. If a team is winning, everyone from the team gets credit. If they lose, the fault usually falls on the goaltender.
It's not as cut-and-dry as that, but Bobrovsky has surely shouldered most of the blame of the Blue Jackets' playoff failures (and in a lot of ways, undeservedly so).
However, in potentially his final season as a Blue Jackets' sweater, it seems like he's started to play as of late with a no-pressure attitude.
Which, if this is to continue, could make the Columbus Blue Jackets a huge force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
In his last five games (the last four being against Metropolitan Division playoff teams), Bobrovsky has a record of 4-1-0, a save percentage of .955, and has stopped 148 of 155 shots. Even his "off game" of four goals against versus the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night was a success by league standards - Bobrovsky still allowed less goals than analytically expected based on how the rest of the team played in front of him last night.
A Friday night win over the Carolina Hurricanes even more solidified what Blue Jackets' fans have been hoping for during Bobrovsky's entire tenure with the team: The man can, and wants to win some big games consistently.
It's well-documented that this Blue Jackets' roster, on paper, is the best one that team has ever bolstered. But winning their first-ever playoff series, and daring to make a deeper run than that, will fall at the hands of their most valuable player, and the No. 1 cop on the force.
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