How Sergei Bobrovsky transformed into a ‘special’ playoff goaltender for the Panthers-News

SUNRISE, Florida – Legend has it that a cat has nine lives, and it’s always on the ground.

Florida Panthers‘ goaltender SERGEY Bobrovsky it seems that he took those stories to heart.

Like the creature depicted on the crest of his sweater, the 34-year-old Bobrovsky has survived — and ultimately thrived — through a tumultuous NHL season. Over the past eight months, Bobrovsky has been mocked and mocked, arrested and counted out, the No. 1 starter.

Through it all, Bobrovsky was saving his best career for this moment, as the Panthers’ postseason champion. Florida went up 3-0 in the game Carolina Hurricanes in Eastern Conference finalone win away from a second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, and Game 4 is tonight (8 p.m. ET, TNT). Bobrovsky already has the inside track on winning the Conn Smythe: 10-2 postseason record, .935 save percentage. 2.15 goals-against average. One blockage. Even one treatment.

It’s not the way Florida designed things, of course. That won’t match the journey Bobrovsky — or the Panthers themselves — took this season.

Florida fought its way to a playoff spot in the final week, turning a poor 18-19-4 record into a late-season crescendo that grabbed the Eastern Conference’s final spot. The Panthers pulled off a blockbuster summer trade Matthew Tkachuksaw him score 109 points, Hart Trophy-nominated always, I’m keeping faith that some of Florida’s stars will eventually make it.

Bobrovsky appeared again at a time when he could have been drafted.

As the Panthers began their dubious run, Alex Lyon took over for Bobrovsky – he went down with an illness at the end of the regular season – as Florida’s point guard. It took Lyon to shake off the Panthers’ first series against Boston Bruins for Bobrovsky to find another form. No one looked in the rearview mirror since – especially in Lyon.

The journeyman may play behind Bobrovsky now, but Lyon has had a front-row seat to Bobrovsky’s preparation class – allowing the veteran to play the game.

“It’s like a writer is in a room with Ernest Hemingway,” Lyon said of watching Bobrovsky work. “To be able to see him in surgery every day, it’s like striking gold.”

It is NOT The money is expensive, but Bobrovsky’s annual salary of $10 million is the richest support for a working NHL netminder. The Panthers have been waiting for the stock to mature.

Before landing in South Florida, Bobrovsky was behind Columbus Blue Jackets cementing his name as one of the league’s leading scorers, with two Vezina Trophy wins (in 2012-13 and 2016-17). After Bobrovsky hit free agency on July 1, 2019, the Panthers signed a seven-year, $70 million deal to cement the 31-year-old Bobrovsky as the team’s starter for the rest of his career.

The road has since been filled with speed bumps. This season was no different.

Bobrovsky got off to a good start, compiling a 12-13-2 record with an .897 SV% and 3.24 GAA until mid-January when he was placed on injured reserve with a weight loss problem. Time went well for Bobrovsky; he returned in February and went 12-4-1, with a .915 SV% and a 2.54 GAA.

A March exit with three straight losses led to Bobrovsky’s temporary illness, which Florida returned to Lyon (another Florida operator, Spencer Knight, who at the time had entered the NHL’s Player Assistance Program). It was Lyon who later led the Panthers to six consecutive wins and helped them to the playoffs.

It was impossible to play on behalf of the Panthers, led by a player who has all 24 NHL games under his belt this season. Florida coach Paul Maurice opted to ride the hot hand in the Panthers’ first game against Boston, the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners. setting up a 65-win, 135-point campaign.

Lyon was 1-1 in the first two games. After Florida trailed 4-0 in Game 3, Lyon got the hook. Bobrovsky came back. He went on to start Game 4 and was rusty in a 25-save performance, but Maurice stuck with him. When Bobrovsky found his way, it was like turning back the clock to the Vezina winning days. And Bobrovsky has been fine.

The Bruins swept the series with three straight wins to send Florida into the second round. Bobrovsky dominated the next series against Toronto Maple Leafs at 4-1-0, with a .943 SV% and 1.89 GAA as the Panthers bid adieu to the Leafs in five games.

In other words, Bobrovsky has gone ahead to take Carolina to the end of the conference. Florida jumped to a 3-0 series lead with Bobrovsky stopping 132 of 135 shots, and hasn’t allowed a goal since the opening two minutes of Game 2. None of the Hurricanes’ leaders scored a power play goal. And it was Bobrovsky’s first playoff shutout that gave Florida a 1-0 win in Game 3 when they were outscored, 32-17.

If you thought Bobrovsky would accept this reputation, you’d be wrong.

“The formation of the team, the way we play,” offensive lineman Bobrovsky said of his performance in Game 3. “My teammates allow me to play well. The formation and the way they work hard in the defensive positions to get results and win, it’s not easy for other players to take over and block. shots and give up their stats because of this.

That positive energy, the ability to remain humble and focused, is what was evident to Bobrovsky’s colleagues at all times. Despite what the outside world said, Bobrovsky didn’t let his past actions determine his future potential.

“I think that’s what’s great about Bob,” the defenseman said Brandon Montour he said. “People see him come to Florida and maybe he’s not doing as well as he used to. But his attitude, his attitude, the way he goes back to the rink every day, win or lose, he’s the same guy. [brings] the same things. So it’s good that he is [on] his game, but I feel like in our locker room, we don’t see much difference. He has been the same, he works hard, he does his business and he is doing well. “

Anyone who wants to know how Bobrovsky became such a dynamo should keep looking – because he’s not telling. It’s not because of strategy. Bobrovsky doesn’t want to rest on his laurels.

“It’s a team effort,” he said of Florida’s run. “It feels like you’re playing in the moment. There’s no future, no past, you’re right here, right now. You see what’s happening and you react accordingly. Everyone helps.[s] to results. It is what it is. I am fortunate and humbled and I thank God for this. “

IT WILL BE FUN for Lyon to be upset by Bobrovsky.

After working his way around the American Hockey League, Lyon finally experienced the long-awaited NHL success. What a disappointment it was when Lyon stumbled, Bobrovsky struck suddenly. A missed opportunity? Not for 30-year-old Lyon. It was an opportunity for him to learn from his teammate.

“I think when you’re a young hockey player, you get caught in the trap of, ‘What’s the one thing I can do? What’s the secret that’s going to elevate me to the Vezina?’ ” Lyon pondered. “And it’s a very wrong way of thinking. You can fall into that trap. There’s not one thing that’s going to get you to the top.

“It’s about your body of work, always showing up, doing the right things every day. And Bob is an example of that. So that I can choose and choose what I like and see what works for me, try different things, being around him, it’s good . I am a student. I like to learn and process.”

Bobrovsky has been coaching Carolina.

The Hurricanes threw Florida from all angles in Game 3. They had some devastating attempts. He plays fast. A difficult turnover on the bike in the Panthers end that obviously put the Florida players on their heels.

It was Bobrovsky who continued to stand.

“[Top goaltenders] they can do that when they’re this far,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You’re coming home [after a game] and you just say, ‘I can have four or five.’ It didn’t happen [for us]. That is what it is; he’s playing a lot.”

If they hadn’t, Maurice felt it was unlikely that Florida would ever be where it is now.

“It’s part of the teams that have come to [conference final],” he said. “We are coming in like wild seed; It’s very important for a player to come in and it’s special at this time of the year.”

Although Bobrovsky has received the honor in the past, this is the closest he has come in 13 years to a Championship final. Florida went there in 1996. A win in Game 4 would bring the Panthers back.

If this happens for twelve reasons. Nothing is more important than Bobrovsky’s insistence on becoming a star in the Cinderella season.

“It makes me happy, it makes me grateful,” Bobrovsky said of being so close to the Cup Final. “I feel good. I’m just happy for this opportunity and I want to thank God for this position and this game.”

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