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Bobrovsky pushes back against criticism: 'I was good in the playoffs'

Jackets' goalie disappointed in result, but resolute in his performance.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Nobody said anything about a psychologist.

At least, not this year. Last year, after the Blue Jackets lost in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in five games, it was suggested in a public forum that goalie Sergei Bobrovsky seek help from a sports psychologist to deal with anxieties he seemed to have in the postseason.

That suggestion didn't sit well with Bobrovsky, who held it in all season.

Monday night, however, the Jackets' top goalie let his feelings be known during a candid postgame media scrum, following another disappointing first-round exit for Columbus in a Game 6 loss to the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena.

"I can't control things around me," said Bobrovsky, who allowed five goals on 27 shots in Game 6, including back-to-back goals that broke the game open for the Capitals in the third period. "The only thing I can control, myself, you know? And after this season, I completely disagree if anybody will say that I need a psychologist, you know?"

It was a jarring statement to the media huddled around him, especially coming from "Bob," the guy who usually just refers to his system and the process he uses to make some of the most incredible saves you'll ever see.

Who said anything about a psychologist?

Answer: nobody, this year.

But since he brought it up, that direction is inevitably where the next question went, referring to Bobrovsky's poor playoff record before this postseason and the tough night he had in Game 6, which overshadowed some great work he logged in the first five games.

"You feel like you've crossed that barrier?" he was asked.

"I think that, yeah, as I say, I think I play strong overall, whole season, so I was consistent," he replied. "I was good in the playoffs. Definitely, I could be better, but we still lose, you know? But I did what I could. I work hard. I battle hard. And I thought I gave a chance [for] my team to win, every night actually."

There were those who took issue with that statement regarding Game 6.

The first of two goals scored by Alex Ovechkin came off a rebound of a shot that Bobrovsky probably didn't need to stop. The puck hit his right pad well outside of the crease and bounced right back to Ovechkin in front of the net for a tap-in goal that made it 2-1 Washington.

Then there was a goal by Devante Smith-Pelly in the third, scored from the left wing less than two minutes after Pierre-Luc Dubois pulled the Blue Jackets within 3-2 at 2:25.

On the one hand, it was a great wrist shot by Smith-Pelly, who pumped it over Bobrovsky's glove and under the crossbar for a 4-2 lead. On the other hand, if you're going to win a playoff series, you have to get saves in those situations.

"That's the important moment and I thought I could step up in this moment," Bobrovsky said. "But again, it is what it is. It's tough to play when your back against the wall already. So, we have to play better before, a little bit. It's 2-0 lead in the series, so we can manage that better."

Bobrovsky also could've been better, but showed improvement from previous playoffs.

He finished the series with a 3.18 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, which are pedestrian stats by his regular-season standards, but those numbers were 2.85 GAA and .912 through the first five games.

Bobrovsky now has a 3.49 GAA and .891 save percentage in 24 career playoff games.

"I thought he took a step in the right direction," coach John Tortorella said. "I think you always have to be better, not just the goaltender but the team and a number of people. It goes for the whole team. We did not make big plays and at times we did not get a big save. That goes right on through the team. I'm not just saying 'Bob.' The whole team. That's why you're out in six."

The Capitals got those big saves from Braden Holtby, seemingly one or two in all four games he started. The Blue Jackets didn't get enough from Bobrovsky, who agreed with Tortorella's assessment.

"We still have a young team," he said. "I think team has developed and grown up, and I think that's a pretty good statement that we made the playoffs [two] years in a row. It's just, uh, to have a next step, we need to get better. We still need to get better."

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