Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Sergei Bobrovsky's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Sept. 20, 1988
Height/Weight: 6-2, 182
Stats (GP, Record, GAA, Save%, Point shares): 62 GP, 37-24-1, 2.58, .913, 10.4 PS
Contract: Unrestricted free agent
2018-19 was one of the most intriguing seasons in Bobrovsky's career, filled with ups, downs, and eventual the postseason success that had eluded him to this point in his career.
At the start of the year, Bobrovsky was spelled more than in past seasons by Joonas Korpisalo, with the younger Finn even starting the opener at Detroit. Bobrovsky had some early success and some early struggles, and his save percentage was sitting at .904 at the All-Star break.
But Bobrovsky was dominant down the stretch, going 18-10-0 with a .924 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average after the All-Star break. He then was the starting goalie for a playoff series win for the first time in his career, posting a .932 save percentage and allowing just eight goals in the sweep of Tampa Bay.
Entering the season: The fact that Bobrovsky entered the year facing unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the campaign cast a shadow on the start of his season, and head coach John Tortorella made clear he wanted to see what the team had in Korpisalo early in the campaign.
But when it came down to it, Bobrovsky was still penciled in as the No. 1 starting the season, and deservedly so as the best goaltender in franchise history. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner was expected to put up excellent numbers again, as he had each of the past two campaigns and throughout his Blue Jackets career, as his arrival in 2012-13 was the turning point for the organization on the road to consistent playoff appearances.
What happened: It wasn't always pretty, but in the end it turned out to be one of the most successful of Bobrovsky's seasons. He had some rough patches -- including a career-high 13 "really bad starts," those Hockey-Reference tracks in which he had a save percentage below .850 -- and also faced a one-game de-facto suspension after his actions in the Jan. 8 loss at Tampa Bay.
But when the chips were down, Bobrovsky again was the rock in net for the Blue Jackets thanks to his dominant final stretch, including six shutouts after the All-Star break. He posted a 2.09 GAA in February and a 1.74 mark in March while going 17-7-0 in that span.
Then, in the postseason, Bobrovsky had his best playoff performance of his career, including the standout showing in the series vs. Tampa Bay including shutdown third periods while facing the hard-charging Bolts in the home wins in Games 3 and 4. In the end, he had a 2.41 GAA and .925 save percentage in the postseason.
"This season brought some challenges obviously but it's always like that, there will be some challenges," Bobrovsky said. "I think we stay together as a group against those challenges and rise. We played pretty good hockey in the playoffs also, as you say, it was fun to be a part of it. It was great."
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Bobrovsky's save on Nikita Kucherov in the second period of Game 1 of the playoffs was one of the biggest saves in Blue Jackets history. Tampa Bay was up 3-0 and looking to make it 4-0 on the power play when Bobrovsky went from his right to left to deny Kucherov's chance on a 2-on-0. To Tortorella, that was a turning point, as Columbus went on to win the game and sweep the Lightning out of the playoffs.
Video: CBJ@TBL, Gm1: Bobrovsky shuts down Kucherov in tight
By the Numbers
- 61: With 61 starts, Bobrovsky had his lowest total of the past three seasons. The Blue Jackets turned to Korpisalo more often than in past seasons, but Bobrovsky did start all but six games after the All-Star break.
- 9: Bobrovsky posted nine shutouts during the season to lead the NHL, including four in a seven-start stretch of March in which he helped push the Blue Jackets into the playoffs. He has 21 shutouts over the past three seasons, most in the NHL.
- 90.13: In seven seasons with the Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky finished with a total of 90.13 goals saved above average, including NHL-leading marks in 2012-13 (21.48) and 2016-17 (33.45) when he won the Vezina Trophy in each season.