Sergei Bobrovsky will make his first start of the 2014 preseason when the Blue Jackets host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Nationwide Arena, hoping to pick up right where he left off after his first career 30-win season.
It will be Bobrovsky’s first game action since the Penguins ended the Jackets’ season last April in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That Penguins team has changed quite a bit after somewhat of a transition summer, while the Blue Jackets expect that Bobrovsky's game will be quite the same, if not better.
BLUE JACKETS VS. PENGUINS
“I expect the same from Bob...I expect him to be better,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “He works, he applies himself the right way. When you watch, you see how he works both on and off the ice. I think that’s what always leads you to expecting more.”
Last April was Bobrovsky’s third career postseason appearance after making trips with the Flyers in 2011 and 2012, when he combined to play seven games. But before camp, Bobrovsky said the Blue Jackets’ most recent playoff run felt like his first, too.
“I would say that was my first playoff experience. Here, I was a No. 1 goalie and there were expectations I went through with my teammates,” Bobrovsky said. “I feel it was a little different.”
It was one of Bobrovsky’s busiest seasons, playing in the playoffs and competing internationally for Russia in the Sochi Olympics and at the World Championship. Overall, Bobrovsky played 69 games last year, a new career-high.
Bobrovsky split time during the offseason training at his home in Russia and also for five weeks in Austria. He’ll have had five days of practice with coaches and teammates before facing his first shot tonight.
Bobrovsky won a Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 2013 but truly cemented his status as an elite NHL goaltender by following it up with a terrific campaign last season.
He won 32 games, posted five shutouts, and his .923 save percentage was sixth among goaltenders that started more than 25 games.
“He’s gotten a chance here and he’s ran with it," said Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell, who was a teammate of Bobrovsky in Philadelphia. "I saw how hard he worked in [Philadelphia] for two years and just that attitude that he wanted to be a No. 1 guy."
“You want to score so bad for him because he works so hard. And that’s going to make me a better player.”