Sergei Bobrovsky was one of the top free-agent signings this past summer. He rose to NHL fame with the Columbus Blue Jackets in his seven seasons with the team. During that time, he amassed two Vezina Trophies while emerging as one of the top goaltenders in the league. In July, he signed a seven-year, $70-million contract with the Florida Panthers. The hope was that Bobrovsky would turn the Panthers around after narrowly missing out on the post-season the past two years.
Bobrovsky’s start in the Sunshine State has been slow. Based on patterns in his career though, the slow start should not be a cause for concern.
Why the Florida Panthers Shouldn’t Worry About Sergei Bobrovsky
The Last Time He Changed Teams
Sergei Bobrovsky signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as an undrafted free-agent in 2010. In his first season with the Flyers, he finished with 2.59 goals-against and a .915 save percentage while posting a 28-13-8 record. His play dropped in the playoffs though, getting replaced as the starter in the Flyers first-round series. He only dressed in six of Philadelphia’s 11 playoff games, starting in three of them. The 2011-12 season saw the Flyers bring in Ilya Bryzgalov, which cut into Brobrovsky’s playing time. He posted a 14-10-2 record with a 3.02 goals-against and a .899 save percentage.
That brought on a change for Bobrovsky, with the Flyers trading him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a second-round pick. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Bobrovsky saw some early struggles with his new team. In his first 10 starts with the Jackets, Bobrovsky posted a save percentage under .900 on four occasions, while being pulled twice. He gave up 28 goals in those first 10 games, collecting only three wins. The Blue Jackets were still in the Western Conference at that point and finished that season second-last in their division. Bobrovsky’s numbers did improve, however, finishing the short season with a 2.00 goals-against and a .932 save percentage in 38 appearances. Those numbers were enough to earn Bobrovsky his first Vezina Trophy.
More Slow Starts
Perhaps it was the hangover from the previous season’s Vezina win. In 2013-14, Bobrovsky found himself mired in another slow start. Through the first 10 games of the season, he had eerily similar numbers as the previous year. There were four occasions where the Russian goaltender posted a sub-.900 save percentage. He gave up four or more goals in all of those games. He also had a four-game losing streak during that time.
Similar to the previous season though, Bobrovsky’s numbers improved. In 58 appearances in 2013-14, Bobrovsky posted a 2.38 goals-against and a .923 save percentage. His save percentage was in the top-10 of goalies who played at least 25 games that season.
The following season, Bobrovsky also stumbled out of the gate. In his first 10 appearances, Bob surrendered three or more goals on five occasions. He finished with a 30-17-3 record with a 2.83 goals-against and a .918 save percentage.
The beginning of his 2015-16 campaign was the worst start for Bobrovsky. He picked up just two wins in his first 10 games. In that 10-game span, he had a save percentage of over .900 just twice, giving up three or more goals in three of those starts. It was the only season of Bobrovsky’s career where he posted a losing record, going 15-19-1 while also battling injuries.
The Bounce-Back for Sergei Bobrovsky
After the dismal numbers in the 2015-16 season, Bobrovsky had a phenomenal 2016-17 season. He won six of his first 10 starts, posting shutouts in three of them. Bobrovsky finished the season with career highs in wins (41), save percentage (.931) and goals-against (2.06) while also capturing his second Vezina Trophy.
In his final season with the Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky had another rough start. He gave up three or more goals in seven of his first 10 appearances. In his final 10 games of the season, Bob posted four shutouts while winning eight times, helping the Blue Jackets secure a playoff spot. Despite the slow start to 2018-19, Bobrovsky finished with 37-24-1 record with a 2.58 goals-against and a .913 save percentage. He finished second in the league in wins and had the most shutouts with nine.
Why Panthers Fans Shouldn’t Worry
Sergei Bobrovsky has a strange trend of slow starts. He is of the top goaltenders in the league this decade but has shown that October is not his best month. Last season with the Blue Jackets is a good microcosm of Bobrovsky’s career. Despite his usual slow start, he showed that he is elite when his team needed him.
Through the first five games this season, Bobrovsky has given up three or more goals in all games but one. He has still gone 2-2-1 in those games, which includes two matchups against the offensive juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It seems at times that the league is wondering when Bobrovsky’s magic will run out. Aside from slow starts and one injury-plagued year, Bobrovsky is among the best goaltenders in the NHL. With a new team, comes growing pains. It took the Russian some time to settle in Columbus, which was the last time he had to move cities. The Panthers are poised to make some noise this season. Once Sergei Bobrovsky finds his rhythm, the Panthers will be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
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