Sergei Bobrovsky’s comments about his confidence (or lack thereof) following Wednesday’s game may have been alarming to some, but they didn’t change anything for his head coach.
For those just catching up, this is what Bobrovsky said after the Blue Jackets’ 7-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators, a game in which he gave up six goals on 26 shots: “I have zero confidence right now. It’s a tough time.”
It’s hard to discount the struggles of the Blue Jackets and their goaltender through the season’s first four games – all of which Bobrovsky has started. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, coming off another 30-plus win season, has opened the 2015-16 campaign with a record of 0-4-0 and a goals-against average of 5.05.
Much of the fault lies not with Bobrovsky, but with the Blue Jackets’ defensive breakdowns and miscues in their own end. They’re leaving the goalie out to dry.
That’s part of the reason why, despite lackluster results this week, Todd Richards hasn’t lost faith in his No. 1 goaltender. In fact, he’s convinced that Bobrovsky is the guy to help get them out of the current rut.
“I haven’t lost any confidence in the goaltender at all, none at all,” Richards said. “That question (about pulling him) caught me off guard – that thought never entered my mind. Bob’s a competitor, he’s an elite athlete and he’s a big part of this organization and a big part of this team.”
The Blue Jackets have given up 20 goals in the first four games, and it doesn’t take a statistician to decipher that 20 is far too many. Players and coaches have stressed the importance of execution in their systems, making the smart plays rather than the pretty plays, to get pucks out of danger and live to fight another day.
Ironically enough, the Blue Jackets ended Wednesday’s game with the NHL’s fifth-best shot attempts percentage (SAT%) at even strength, at 55.03. They’ve held the lead for under eight minutes total in the first four games, but when they do have the lead, opponents have taken control: Columbus’ SAT% goes down to 44.4 percent when holding a lead.
So, in a nutshell, it hasn’t been easy on Bobrovsky with the Blue Jackets giving up both a high number of chances and an uncomfortable number of high-quality chances. They need their structure and “team” game to improve in order to help their goaltender, which in turn should cut back on the aforementioned problems.
They’re in a desperate spot as they enter Friday’s game against another winless club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Richards said it was a no-brainer to go back to Bobrovsky.
“I have a lot of confidence in him, based on his track record and what he’s done,” Richards said. “When the team game isn’t good in front of the goalie, the goalie gets exposed. We gave up five chances in New York where it was just a player and Bob, and looking at the chances we’re giving up, he’s out there on an island a lot of times by himself.”