The biggest of four names to join the Panthers this off-season was Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, but he hasn’t lived up to the billing in his first month.
Sergei Bobrovsky, who signed for $72 million from Columbus, was a massive get for a Florida Panthers team in desperate need of quality goalkeeping. All of last year’s goalies- Roberto Luongo, James Reimer, and Sam Montembeault– had goal against averages of over three, meaning the Cats’ defensive woes weren’t going away any time soon.
By getting Bobrovsky, the Cats brought in a lot of hype to their team, that hasn’t had to deal with preseason expectations as much as they had. A lot of people believed that both Bobrovsky and new head coach Joel Quenneville would immediately resolve Florida’s major cracks from last season.
The result in the brief eight games so far has shot below that expectation, at least on paper. Florida currently stands sixth in the Atlantic- albeit they are just three points behind third-place- at 3-2-3. Florida has been to four separate overtimes so far, including three shootouts, meaning the Panthers could just as easily be 5-2-1, but alas, are not.
One of the big surprises thus far has been the performances of Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky has a 2-2-2 record with a repulsive 4.07 GAA and .872 save percentage. Not only are these numbers poor for his Bob’s standards, but are poor for any goalie at this point in the season. Bob has given up four or more goals in four out of his first six starts and has been pulled once.
Fortunately for Florida, backup Sam Montembeault has had a tremendous start to the campaign. In his first three games, Monty holds a record of 1-0-1 with a 1.79 GAA and a .933 save percentage, much better than the numbers of his counterpart.
It’s gotten to the point where there are people doubting whether the Panthers should continue to start Bobrovsky as much, with the team recording much better with Monty between the pipes. While it may be true right now, don’t expect it to stay consistent.
Yes, one may look at Bob’s stats and wonder why he’s playing so poorly, but sit down and really look at every goal he’s given up, and the bigger issues emerge.
A lot of the goals Bobrovsky has given up haven’t been at his fault. Look at his performance against the Carolina Hurricanes, in which Bobrovsky gave up four goals on 14 shots, and a lot of the goals weren’t savable.
Carolina’s opener came through Jordan Staal, who didn’t have to do too much to get space. The shot from Jake Gardiner would’ve been easily saved by Bobrovsky, but it redirected off Brock McGinn. Meanwhile, Staal got separation from Panthers’ defenseman Mark Pysyk to stab the puck home from point-blank range.
No matter how much a goalie is paid or however good they may be, they’re not going to stop these chances frequently. Bobrovsky had trouble following the puck through Staal’s screen, and he was made to pay.
Their third goal was just as laughable from a Florida perspective. Dougie Hamilton‘s pass cut right through Mike Matheson and Aaron Ekblad, giving Andrei Svechnikov a breakaway. Again, Bobrovsky had very little chance to make a save but was able to bail his defensemen off.
He couldn’t control the rebound, and neither of his defenseman guarded the slot. Hamilton walked right in, had plenty of time to pick his spot, beating Bobrovsky top shelf over his right shoulder. From that close of proximity, it’s hard for Bob, or any goalie, to make a save of that quality.
Even in Bob’s last start, a 5-4 OT loss to Colorado, the goals were too easy from a Colorado perspective. Their second goal, which got the Avs back into the game, was just too much for Bobrovsky to stop. When Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, someone who isn’t known for his playmaking, is able to carve a pass right through the slot, there’s a problem. Matt Nieto benefited, and Bobrovsky again gives up a goal that he had very little chance of saving.
As disappointing as that was, Florida’s defense seems to play better with Montembeault. As mentioned, Florida have only given up five goals during Monty’s eight periods of play, including two overtimes. It could have been early-season rust, but look for Bobrovsky to improve his numbers if his defense improves their play.