Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Penguins continue to be Sergei Bobrovsky's postseason boogeyman

By Mark Madden
April 18, 2017

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets fails to stop Jake Guentzel's shot in overtime during Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Columbus 5-4 in overtime. Pittsburgh leads the series 3-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

One puck hit an official and wound up in the Penguins’ net. One puck hit an open door at Columbus’ bench and wound up in the Penguins’ net. One puck hit Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski in the face and wound up in the Blue Jackets’ net. One puck hit Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the face and wound up in the netting above the glass.
Hockey can be a funny game. It certainly was Sunday.
Everyone figured goaltending would be an issue in the Penguins-Columbus playoff series.
But few figured that the Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky would be the goalie in a state of collapse.
Perhaps more should have.
Bobrovsky entered the series with subpar postseason numbers, and has done nothing to improve them. Pucks keep easing through him -- or banking off him -- and the ultimate destination is too often inside the net.
Bobrovsky has made some outstanding saves. But those don’t remove any pucks from the net. As the great philosopher Tom Barrasso said, “It’s not the saves you make, it’s the goals you let in.”
Barrasso won playoff games. Unlike Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky will likely receive his second Vezina Trophy for his outstanding regular-season play. But his body language suggests he’s ready to fly Aeroflot to Russia’s training camp for the upcoming IIHF World Championships.
Bobrovsky had to be the best player on the ice for the Blue Jackets to have a legitimate shot at eliminating the Penguins. He’s been far from that.
In nine playoff starts against the Penguins (three this year and six in 2014) Bobrovsky has conceded less than three goals just once. His record: 2-7.
Great regular-season goalie. Bobrovsky is a bum in the playoffs. His puckhandling error gave the Penguins their first goal in Game 2, and consider the goals Bobrovsky allowed in Game 3:
*Jake Guentzel’s first goal was from a severe angle.
*Bryan Rust’s goal went between Bobrovsky’s catching glove and pad.
*Evgeni Malkin’s goal (initially credited to Rust) crawled under Bobrovsky.
*Guentzel banked his second goal off Bobrovsky from behind the goal line.
*Guentzel’s OT winner crawled through Bobrovsky on the short side.
Guentzel showed incredible touch befitting somebody with nine goals in eight games. The Penguins have gifted finishers, and put in the hard work down low and around the blue paint. Those weren’t all terrible goals.
But Bobrovsky had to do better. Given his regular-season stats and value to the Blue Jackets, he simply had to do better in the series’ first three games.
Now, it probably won’t matter if he does. Bobrovsky had to steal a game. He has done nothing approaching that. Vladislav Tretiak, he’s not.
If Vladimir Myshkin replaced Tretiak in 1980, Joonas Korpisalo could replace Bobrovsky for Game 4 tonight. But no one seems to be suggesting that Jackets Coach John Tortorella use his backup, and that’s to be expected. Bobrovsky’s excellence made the Jackets a playoff team.
He’s also the reason they’re on the verge of a too-quick exit.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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