Sergei Bobrovsky was at times unbeatable in the regular season.
The playoffs, unfortunately, were a much different story.
This is a player who is likely to win the Vezina Trophy again as the NHL's top goaltender, and he's also a finalist for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) for the first time. He won 41 games in 2016-17, a new Blue Jackets record, and finished the year with a sparkling .931 save percentage.
But in that five-game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, something didn't seem right.
His save percentage in those five games dipped to .882 and, not surprisingly, the Blue Jackets were unable to score at a pace which mitigated the issues in goal. Aaron Portzline of The Dispatch spoke to Bobrovsky's agent, Paul Theofanus, who said his client is "devoted to excellence" and will spend a portion of his summer trying to remedy what went wrong in the playoffs.
One of those solutions, Portzline reports, could be working with a sports psychologist. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen cited several instances in sports where a player has been dominant in one aspect but struggles in another:
“Sergio Garcia couldn’t win a major, but now he’s won a major and he might just keep going. Back home in Finland, we had a cross-country skier (Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi) who was the best in the world, but couldn’t win for the longest time. Then she got to the Olympics (in 1984) and she won everything, and she kept on winning.”
As Portzline notes, Bobrovsky has been exposed to high-pressure environments before, having represented his country in several different international tournaments: the World Cup of Hockey, Olympic Winter Games, and IIHF World Championships.
Whatever the case, there's no reason for the Blue Jackets (or their fans) to panic over a second poor showing from Bobrovsky in the playoffs. The reality is that he doesn't have a lot of experience yet, and with more under his belt, the smart betting is that he'll embrace the stage in the years ahead.