Sergei Bobrovsky hoping time off, win over former club will turn tide on young season
Florida’s prized free-agent goaltender has survived slow starts before
SUNRISE, Fla. – When the dust settled on the Florida Panthers' offseason, many thought the team's leaky goals against faucet would be tightened thanks to the additions of head coach Joel Quenneville and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Entering the third month of the NHL season, the effectiveness of both additions continued to be a work in progress.
With Quenneville, and the implementation of his defensive system, there have been definite signs of progress.
The phrase 'two steps forward, one step back' comes to mind, as there is clear improvement on how the team, as a whole, is defending when compared to the first six weeks of the season, but the consistency is lacking.
It's understandable for there to be struggles. It's not easy for a team to adapt to a new coach and the changes they bring.
The same can be said for Bobrovsky, whose shortcomings since joining the Panthers have been well documented.
Bob came from a Blue Jackets team known for its stingy defense. Playing in Florida would not be the same, at least not at first.
He entered Saturday's game against Columbus, the team he played the previous seven seasons for, looking for a bit of a fresh start.
It had been ten days since his last game action, by far the longest he'd gone between starts since signing a 7-year, $70 million deal with Florida over the summer.
Perhaps the time off was just what the doctor ordered.
Bobrovsky looked more comfortable and confident against his former mates than he had all season, backstopping the Panthers to a convincing 4-1 win.
"I liked everything about his game today," Quenneville said afterwards. "It was obviously an interesting day; I’m sure there's a couple of ways of looking at it if you’re him. It was one of those days with a lot of focus on him, a lot of attention, and it was a great response.
"It was nice to see him really set the tone for us, right off the bat, in the first period."
Bobrovsky is now 22 games into his tenure as Florida's puck stopping specialist.
His record of 10-6-4 is nothing to sneeze at, though the corresponding 3.35 goals against average (GAA) and .889 save percentage certainly leave something to be desired.
Slow starts to new seasons are nothing new to Bob, so there is precedent for a sharpening of his game.
If Saturday night was any indication, we may be witnessing said turnaround.
"I tried to reset, refocus, relax a little bit, and just calm down and play my game," Bobrovsky said after the 33-save win.
Quenneville appeared to share in his goaltender's enthusiasm.
“As the game progressed, he was solid in the net," Quenneville said. "I thought his rebound control, and anticipating where the puck was, I thought he did an excellent job.”
Florida has six games remaining on a season-long nine-game homestand, and they close out 2019 with eight of 11 at BB&T Center.
It's a great opportunity for Bobrovsky to utilize working the same routine, get back into a groove and take advantage of the home crowds.
While doing a postgame interview from the Panthers bench Saturday night, Bob acknowledged the fans, who responded by giving him a rousing cheer.
“It’s definitely (an) emotional game for me, so thanks fans for the huge support tonight,” he said, looking around the rink and waiving a glove toward the crowd. “It’s (a) good day for me. Again, I respect (Columbus) a lot. It’s a great win for us, moving forward.”
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