It was a tale of two seasons for Columbus Blue Jacket goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Leading up to the trade deadline this past season, Bobrovsky was having one of the shakier stretches of his career. The prior offseason hadn't given way to a trade of the star goaltender, which led to a drama and speculation-filled fall and winter on when Bobrovsky would be making his exit, and where to.
It's assumed that Bobrovsky's play was being affected by these trade rumors - but it's not like the rest of the club was exempt from the distractions. It's amazing how the club even stayed above .500 entering the new year.
Once the trade deadline passed and the Jackets knew what team they were going to get, it was only a matter of time before the peace settled in about their circumstances - especially for Bobrovsky. He then proceeded to rip off one of if not the best stretch of play of his career to close out the regular season and continued it into the playoffs, laying down more cement in the process of his legendary status in Columbus.
It certainly was a polarizing year for Bobrovsky - he was hot and cold at various times throughout, but all in all, had a top-tier season for almost any goaltender.
Through his first 36 games of the regular season (till the last day of January) Bobrovksy was bolstering a 19-6-1 record with a 2.83 goals against average, a .901 save percentage and two shutouts. This isn't bad by any means - but for Bobrovsky's standards as a two-time Vezina winning goaltender, it was not acceptable to end the year on.
His evolution (back) into a juggernaut of a goaltender came near or around February 1st, and he didn't look back. In the final 26 games of the regular season, Bobrovsky put up an 18-8-0 record, a 1.96 GAA, a 9.30 SV%, and seven shutouts.
Bobrovksy was back to being Bobrovsky again. The only demon he then faced was the biggest of his career up to that point - the playoffs.
Those demons were soon exorcised and in humiliating fashion. Bobrovsky tore through the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, allowing just eight goals against one of the best offenses the league has ever seen.
The following series against the Boston Bruins, though not so kind to Columbus, was still glorifying for the most part to Bobrovksy. His 2.83 GAA and .921 SV% shined as well as it could have in a 4-2 series defeat for the Blue Jackets.
Highlight of the Campaign
Without this save, it's not all too wild to say the Blue Jackets would have been on the other end of the sweep against the Lightning:
Bobrovsky reportedly sold his condo, he's likely going to ask for a contract north of nine million dollars per year - these are just two reasons as to why the Russian star might've just finished up his last season ever in Columbus.
This is a bittersweet ending to an era in Columbus Blue Jackets history. Sergei Bobrovsky is arguably the greatest Blue Jacket of all time (looking at the totality of players' careers) and was a crucial reason as to why the franchise is in any sort of state of success.
Before Bobrovsky, the club had never won a playoff series, had just one winning season in 11 years and had no real direction for growth. Once he was on board, the club made the playoffs four out of the seven seasons he was present, had six winning seasons, and won a playoff series for the first time in its history.
The sweet part of the bittersweet is that the Blue Jackets will be thankful to unload Bobrovsky's huge contract and avoid taking on another massive one if they kept him. Also, the team will have the chance to build a new identity around their core players, instead of being one known for getting bailed out by Bobrovsky night in and night out.
Be thankful for what we got to witness. We might not see someone between the pipes of his talent in a Blue Jacket sweater for a long time.
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