Sergei Bobrovsky authored one of the best goaltending seasons in recent memory this year.
He's probably going to bank a second career Vezina Trophy. He stopped 93 percent of the shots that came his way. That's just ridiculous.
What's equally perplexing is how he has sputtered in the playoffs; and it's not just a 2017 issue we're talking about. Bobrovsky also had difficulty in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs when the Blue Jackets faced these same Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round.
Bobrovsky's play has raised some eyebrows around the NHL this week, with some wondering if these postseason struggles are a disturbing trend or just a letdown after such a remarkable regular season.
His head coach, John Tortorella, fully recognizes that Bobrovsky hasn't been at his best in this series. He was much better in Game 4 on Tuesday night and made 5-7 impressive saves in important moments, which were reminiscent of the goaltender they saw all season.
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Tortorella told media in Pittsburgh today that he hasn't spoken to Bobrovsky in the series. He prefers to leave his goaltenders alone and let them do their thing.
"He’s the backbone of our team," Tortorella said. "He’s had a tremendous year. I know everybody’s looking to poke holes into him with a little inconsistency here and there, but he made some key saves (in Game 4). He wants that second one back…we end up a little nervous after that second goal. We’re pretty comfortable with him in our net.
"Bob hasn’t been perfect, but we’re not going anywhere if we’re not on his back."
Bobrovsky's regular season numbers were eye-popping: he won a franchise record 41 games with a 2.06 goals against average and .931 save percentage, borderline silly numbers for a guy who started 63 games.
It's a smaller sample size, mind you, but his 2016-17 playoff numbers have tailed: 3.61 goals against average and .891 save percentage. During the Blue Jackets' six-game playoff appearance in 2014, Bobrovsky posted a 3.17 goals against average and .901 save percentage, which, again, were significantly above his regular season numbers.
"Bob made a couple of big saves (in Game 4)," Tortorella said. "We got through it. That’s important for a team. Scoring a goal early in that third period after the last three and a half, four minutes of that second was really important for our team. Those are good things as your team’s going through the process."