Blue Jackets goalie Bobrovsky turns page, focuses on Game 2
Why would Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky take to the ice for an optional practice Thursday, some 14 hours after losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs first round series to the Penguins?
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner could have recuperated following the 4-3 defeat, one in which he stopped 28 of 32 shots but allowed two soft goals, including the winner by Brandon Sutter at 8:18 of the third period at Consol Energy Center.
Columbus flew home after the game, and many of the players decided either not to skate midday or partake in a spirited soccer/tennis game in the depths of Nationwide Arena to loosen up.
Not the goalie commonly referred to as “Bob.”
“He's a guy that's constantly working on his game, trying to improve his game, whether it's something he liked or he didn't like,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “He's a professional. He knows what he needs to do to get himself ready.”
The Russian-born Bobrovsky, 25, wasn't happy with his performance in Game 1 and spent time Thursday and Friday with goaltending coach Ian Clark on technique.
“Just basic things. Nothing special,” Bobrovsky said. “I've got to get better. Four goals is a lot, but it's already past me.”
Bobrovsky's reputation is that of a hard worker. That he does interviews is a testament to that. He knew little English when he spent two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and would try to talk only to print media after he was mocked when he did audio and video interviews.
He learned English on his own, and by the time he was traded to the Blue Jackets on June 22, 2012, he was more comfortable but still hesitant to converse without a translator.
Now, he's proficient, and many in Philadelphia were surprised this season at how forthcoming he was.
Bobrovsky also recently did his first postgame TV interview.
As confident as he is with English, Bobrovsky has instilled confidence in his Blue Jackets teammates that he will rebound in Game 2 on Saturday.
“If we play well in front of him, the rest will take care of itself,” left wing Nick Foligno said.
Left wing R.J. Umberger has seen Bobrovsky carry the team, especially last season when Columbus came within a point of making the playoffs in the Western Conference.
“He's been unbelievable the last two years, and he'll be unbelievable the next game, I know it,” Umberger said.
Bobrovsky was 21-11-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average last season. He was 32-20-5 record with a 2.38 GAA this season despite missing 14 games due to injury and illness.
He competed for Russia at the Sochi Olympics, where he earned a win but was the losing goalie in an eight-round shootout during a preliminary-round game against Team USA.
Bobrovsky hasn't had much luck against the Penguins, either. In a 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinal game while with the Flyers, he relieved fellow Russian Ilya Bryzgalov and allowed five goals on 18 shots in a 10-3 loss. In his postseason career, he is 0-3 with a 4.04 GAA and .855 save percentage.
The Penguins also torched him for three goals on 13 shots Nov. 1 before Bobrovsky was pulled after 28 minutes in his lone regular-season appearance against them.
If he can't figure a way to stop the Penguins' potent attack, it will be a short series for Columbus.
“They've definitely got a lot of skill,” he said. “It's interesting to play against their best guys.”
Craig Merz is a freelance writer.