On July 1, 2019, former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender and two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, signed a seven-year, $70 million deal with a no-movement clause (NMC) with the Florida Panthers. With this, he became the second-highest paid goaltender in the NHL, behind Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. He was one of the four free agents that former general manager Dale Tallon brought in as part of Florida’s busy 2019 offseason. This signing was to solve their issue at goaltending as Roberto Luongo announced his retirement and James Reimer was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes. Nothing but excitement was brought his way after the way he capped off sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 Playoffs. However, when he arrived in Sunrise, he did not play as he was advertised.
Bobrovsky Slumps in First Year
Bobrovsky’s first taste of South Florida hockey did not pan out the way he and fans hoped it would have. He finished the 2019-20 season with a .900 save percentage (SV%), which was the lowest since his second year in the NHL. Furthermore, he also finished with a 3.23 goals-against average (GAA), the highest of his career. Near the end of that regular season, Chris Driedger would be favored over him for the last three games of the season and Sam Montembeault for one game.
For someone who is getting paid All-Star money, he was performing at an AHL level at the time. But of course, he would find his game and turn it around for his team.
Bob Starts Playing like a Starter
Bobrovsky started getting hot at a big time for the Panthers as they make a push towards the postseason. In his last 11 starts, he went 7-3-1. Until March 18 against the Nashville Predators, he was on a 6-game winning streak. Furthermore, he had a SV% above .920 in six of his last nine appearances. In addition, he allowed two goals or less in six of his last 10 starts. Additionally, he also capped off a 38-save performance on March 9 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Because of that, his teammates show him some love.
“He was unreal tonight,” Lammikko said of Bobrovsky. “A lot of huge saves, especially in the third. He gets the lead, and it was fun to watch him. It was awesome.”Panthers Forward Juho Lammikko on Sergei Bobrovksy’s 38-save effort on March 9.
His recent performances brought his season SV% to .903, his season record to 12-4-2, and his GAA to 2.97. They’re not the best numbers, but they’re a drastic improvement from what they were earlier this season as his GAA was in the 3.30’s and his SV% was below .900. Despite struggling last season and earlier this season, Bobrovsky is finally playing up to his $10 million deal.
Will He Replace Dreidger?
Earlier in the season, Dreidger was getting more reps than Bobrovsky and was performing very well under those circumstances. Joel Quenneville was cycling the two goalies to get them to start streaking, but Dreidger came away with more starts due to better performances and numbers. As of now, his numbers are a .924 SV% and a 2.22 GAA, and he picked up the team’s first shutout on March 20.
While Bobrosvky has been getting more nods than Dreidger as of late, his performance is what was expected from him from the moment he landed in Sunrise. With some of the opponents the Panthers have played so far this season, he stepped up and may have taken his spot back as the number one goalie for Florida.
Is His Play Enough for a Deep Playoff Run?
Florida has come a long way. In the NHL overall, they have the second-fewest regulation losses, the fifth-highest point percentage and are third in the league standings as of this writing. While playoffs are more than likely for Florida, they’re going to need this type of Bobrovsky when it rolls around. Overall, he’s been to the playoffs eight times in his career, but only advanced outside of the first round once.
However, this team is much different than the teams he’s played with. He’s playing with a team that is 14th in the league in goals against per game and fifth in goals scored per game. He can hit that high ceiling and he’ll have his team help him through every step of the way. Bobrovsky must keep his recent streak going, so that he’s feared around the NHL come postseason time.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!