The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has kept that same mentality through multiple rough patches in South Florida — ones where the seven-year, $70 million contract he signed with the Panthers in 2019 has been called one of the worst in the league — but he has not let it get to him.
After a regular season that saw him suffer through multiple stints of injuries and illness as well as temporarily losing the starting job at the beginning of the postseason to Alex Lyon, his mindset helped him settle back in and lead Florida to its first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 1996.
“It’s your life and you have to approach it one day at a time,” Bobrovsky told The Palm Beach Post. “You can’t think too far ahead of yourself or too far behind. I’m just trying to stay in the moment and do what the situation dictates. You don’t really think about wins or losses, it’s more about the process. You go with it, go with the flow, and see where you’re going.”
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The rest of the team has echoed the exact words that Bobrovsky often says after games: “One game at a time.” And it has led them to one of the most improbable runs in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
After entering the playoffs with the worst record of any team in the postseason, the Panthers took down the record-breaking Boston Bruins and high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs and now sit four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.They open the best-of-seven conference finals Thursday night at Carolina.
Bobrovsky is arguably the reason they are there.
Since Florida started its historic run trailing 3-1 to the Bruins in the first round, Bobrovsky is 7-1-0 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average.
He torched the Maple Leafs in the second round, going 4-1-0 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.89 goals-against average while allowing no more than two goals in each game.
“I think the story of Sergei Bobrovsky is how he goes into Game 5 (against Boston) and you almost need to fully appreciate the pressure that he is under in that game,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Alex Lyon has saved our season if you will, he’s been so good, but the weight of that game needed to be carried by (Bobrovsky). And he did.”
Bobrovsky stopped 44 of the 47 shots he faced – including a Brad Marchand breakaway in the dying seconds of regulation – to lead the Panthers to an overtime win to keep their season alive. He’s kept on rolling from there.
“That was an unbelievable performance in the context of that,” Maurice said. “So then you get a glimpse of the man at his best. I think what you are seeing is a confident Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s not a reason, he is the reason we are winning. Not ‘Hey, your goaltending is not as good as the other team.’
“You play Tampa twice and Andrei Vasilevskiy is on a roll and you’re the guy on the other end of the rink who doesn’t feel as good. But Sergei knows that he’s come back in and every night he’s been the best goalie.”
Big saves helped Panthers stun Bruins
Bobrovsky kept the Panthers alive multiple times during the Boston series with big saves in crucial moments. Once they secured arguably the biggest upset in NHL playoffs history, Bobrovsky was lights out against Toronto.
“It’s great to have a guy like that in the net. It gives you a lot of confidence,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “You don’t want to have any breakdowns, but when those happen or they get a good chance to score, Bob is always there for us and gives us a chance to win every night.”
Bobrovsky is one of the first players on the ice and one of the last to leave the rink in an effort to help the team win. Even if it means lifting his goaltending partner up rather than himself.
When he fell ill in Toronto late in the regular season with the Panthers’ playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Bobrovsky sat down with Lyon and broke down the Maple Leafs’ offense and what to look for.
Lyon stopped 38 of 40 shots to spark the six-game winning streak, which helped Florida clinch a spot in the postseason. And even when he was healthy enough to return with three games to go in the regular season, Bobrovsky stood by and supported his teammate any way he could.
“[Lyon] stepped into a tough situation,” Bobrovsky said. “He hasn’t played much this year and our season was on the line against one of the best teams in the league and he did a great job. He put the team on his shoulders and brought the team to the playoffs. It was a crucial time.
“I have also always had good relationships with the other goalie. I think it’s healthy and it’s good for the team and good for us because only the two of us know what the other is dealing with and we can only support each other and help each other to be reliable.”
Bobrovsky not above helping fellow goaltenders
Bobrovsky has kept that same kind of rapport with his partners of the past when they took over the bulk of the starts during his struggles over the last three seasons as well. Whether it was his usual partner, 22-year-old Spencer Knight or 2020-21 breakout and Seattle Expansion Draft pick Chris Driedger, he would put the same energy into helping them succeed.
“It’s more just the process talk,” Bobrovsky said. “You still have to play the game and trust your instincts. You don’t think about what the shooter is going to do. You read the game and you rely on your instincts. The talks are more about sharing the information: what you see, what you went through, and what you felt there.”
Through all of the bad times Bobrovsky has lived through with the Panthers, he has come out of it as grateful as ever. He is entering the first conference final of his 13-year NHL career playing at his best and he is ready for whatever the Hurricanes are going to throw at him.
“I am happy and fortunate that we are still alive,” Bobrovsky said. “There are only four teams still alive and I’m still playing hockey, so I’m happy with that. We beat two really strong teams and our journey still continues.”
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida Panthers facing Carolina Hurricanes with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal
Source: Yahoo Sports