TORONTO - Though goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said his attention is firmly affixed on the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, he acknowledged a strong tournament and a fast start to the NHL regular season could go hand-in-hand, or, for Bobrovsky, glove-in-glove.
"It goes the same direction with the World Cup and a good start with Columbus," he said. "I prepared myself for the World Cup - that's the biggest thing for me right now. All my focus is on that."
Bobrovsky and the rest of the Blue Jackets aren't shy about their expectations for the start of the upcoming season.
"The most important thing is our start this year; 0-8 is not going to cut it again," Seth Jones said. "You put yourself in such a deep hole you can't get out of it. That's what we're really looking forward to doing this year."
For a goaltender, the transition from summer hockey to NHL game action can be steep. From seeing shots off a stick blade to reestablishing angles, it's difficult for goaltenders to duplicate game situations, even in a regular season practice.
But whatever paces Bobrovsky put himself through this summer were enough to see him win the starting job in Russia's crease over Semyon Varlamov.
"I just prepared myself as I normally do," Bobrovsky said. "I did some on-ice and off-ice. I prepared myself for this season, and it's all about the process, so I worked on it."
He's played 38 career games in October, and has a .899 save-percentage in that month (18 points below his career average). In his Blue Jackets career, Bobrovsky has gone 8-18-0 in the month of October with an .897 save-percentage.
And as he represents his country into Toronto, he knows Varlamov is nipping at his heels, a bad game or misstep away from losing the starting role.
"He's a great goalie, and it's a good challenge, but we both know that only one is going to play," Bobrovsky said. "It's been a good atmosphere in the practices, so I look forward to playing in that big tournament."
By comparison though, Bobrovsky's November numbers have been much better. He's gone 24-15-6 in the second month of the regular season with a .920 save-percentage; in Columbus, his record in November sits at 14-12-3 with a .915 save-percentage.
So maybe Bobrovsky has cleared the snow out of his crease or shaken off the rust, or maybe it's a coincidence that means absolutely nothing, but what is confirmed is he's revving things up about a month earlier than he's used to.
"I feel great right now," he said. "We compete, we're battling, and it works for [Varlamov and I]."
Bobrovsky said he took some time to reset this offseason, trying to get a clean mental slate before getting back to work.
When he did resume training, new Blue Jackets High Performance Consultant Nelson Ayotte, who Bobrovsky confirmed worked with him on a regimen, paid him a visit.
"There are some things I'm going to change because it's not a good thing to have a groin injury three times in three years," Bobrivsky said. "It definitely concerns me. I worked a lot this summer to prevent that."
So between a tweaked physical routine, a clean mental slate, and the rigors of the World Cup, Bobrovsky said he hopes his experience in Toronto creates smooth sailing early on in Columbus.
"You're going to play against the best players, and you practice with the best players out of your country," Bobrovsky said. "It's definitely a great setup for the season."