The Florida Panthers landed their top priority in free agency this past July, with the top goalie in the free-agent class coming to Sunrise. Now, the responsibility is Sergei Bobrovsky’s to live up to the hype.
Sergei Bobrovsky joined the Florida Panthers following seven seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The two-time Vezina winner signed onto a seven-year, $100 million contract, making him the second-highest-paid NHL goalie behind Montreal’s Carey Price. Now, he has to live up to the billing.
Bobrovsky is a massive upgrade on any of the three goalies that played for Florida last season, capable of being the best goalie in the NHL. Just three seasons ago, Bobrovsky put up forty-one wins across sixty-three starts, allowing just 2.06 goals per game with a .937 save percentage.
Not only does signing Bobrovsky bring a Stanley Cup caliber goaltender, but it should bring a Stanley Cup caliber attitude to the locker room. Bobrovsky went on record in his opening press conference, saying he came to Florida to win a Stanley Cup, and now the Panthers finally have someone they can believe in.
While Bobrovsky’s numbers have regressed since the second Vezina Trophy, averaging roughly 2.5 goals per game in 126 regular-season games in his final two seasons for the Jackets. It was his first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning which inspired confidence in the new Cats keeper.
After a rough 1st period in game one, with the Blue Jackets 3-0 down away from home, Bobrovsky made several crucial saves to keep his team in it, giving his forwards a pillar to forge a comeback, going on to win 4-3.
We’re hoping to see moves like this a lot more come October. This save, after just eighteen seconds of second-period play, was the biggest save he would make, and arguably was one of the best of the playoffs, denying league MVP Nikita Kucherov on the doorstep.
As winger Ondrej Palat centers the puck to Steven Stamkos, Bobrovsky does well to maintain a good position in his crease. He reads Stamkos’ eyes rather than watching the puck, eyeing that Stamkos is looking right, rather than at the goal. As the pass comes to Kucherov, Bobrovsky moves with the puck, reaching up with the glove to make a crucial save.
His performances dipped in the second round, as the Boston Bruins proved too much for the Russian in net. With Florida, the expectations begin to rise again, with a star-studded roster looking to make serious noise in the south.
For Bobrovsky, however, his work is cut out for him. This was one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL last season, with the Cats conceding 273 goals in 2018-19, the fourth-most in the NHL. A lot of the fans believe that Bobrovsky alone can solve the issue, and if he plays up to his potential, he will definitely help.
He’s going to need some help, however. Bobrovsky will continue to age in these next couple of seasons, and if players like Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson don’t improve, it’s going to be a long seven seasons.
In terms of expectation for Bobrovsky, he has to live up to the contract. Florida isn’t paying Bobrovsky ten million dollars to be another James Reimer, he needs to give Florida a few big saves a game, some veteran leadership, but most importantly, some consistency in the crease.
If the Panthers want to punch above their weight, they need Bobrovsky to play more like 2016-17 Bobrovsky, giving up narrowly 2 goals a game, and saving roughly 94% of the shots on goal. Bobrovsky, now 30, might regress partially with age, but still needs to be the dominant force in goal.
In terms of an exact prediction, it has to be numbers worthy of an all-star. The Panthers need a guy who’s going to sit in net for sixty-plus games, roughly a goals against average of 2.40, and a .920 save percentage.
All in all, the expectations for Bobrovsky will be through the roof. He’s going to be a very exciting player for all Florida fans to fascinate over and hopefully, leads the team back to the playoffs with dominance in the net.